This book is long overdue: it’s a great idea to have a separate manual for those responsible for directing projects and sitting on the Project Board. Directing Successful Projects with PRINCE2 2009 has a clear structure – and it’s also clear what it does not include. There is nothing in here about the leadership skills required to carry out the Project Executive responsibilities, but the manual does reference the Focus on Skills series which does cover this. In fact, the inter-relationships between this book and the other OGC texts is set out in a way which provides context to this text.
I particularly liked the guidance for new Executives: there are case studies and boxed examples that help bring the theory into a practical setting. There are also discussions of the more complex concepts for Project Board members. The explanation of different types of tolerances in Chapter 3 is comprehensive and will no doubt assist project managers in securing tolerance limits on future projects.
There are also practical shortcuts, like draft agendas for Project Board meetings and benefits reviews. However, I felt there could be more emphasis on the importance of a successful handover to operations, as this is often missed in projects and the support of the Executive is making sure this happens effectively is essential.
The book provides clear guidance as to what is expected of the project manager, as well as how to select the right project manager for the project. Chapter 8 offers advice on what to do if the project manager selected requires too much support or is failing to manage by exception, and again, this is good, practical advice for new Executives.
In the past, many project managers have had to provide guidance themselves to Project Board members, and ask for what they need. They will assuredly appreciate the concrete guidance this book offers in a form that they can give to Executives instead of having to hold difficult conversations which can often feel like undermining the Executive’s experience or authority. While it won’t avoid the need for all difficult conversations between project manager and Executive, it will hopefully ease some of the organisational challenges and allow both parties to get on with the job of managing a successful project.