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Book review: PM Crash Course

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“Do not waste your time with this book unless you are ready to implement what it contains!” warns Rita Mulchay in chapter one of PM Crash Course: Premier Edition. “Make your decision now! Do you have the guts to be a better project manager?”

This book is one long high five.  You can imagine Mulcahy at the front of a classroom, enthusing her delegates with her obvious love of projects and project management.

There is lots of whooping and people shouting, “Yeah!” The atmosphere in the classroom is charged with the energy of participants clapping each other on the back and celebrating success in the multitude of practical exercises.

Now translate that to a book, and try to get through one page without the use of exclamation marks. At one point, I even found a sentence that ended with two.

The tone didn’t sit well with me. I’m a just-tell-me-quietly-what-I-need-to-know girl. I steer clear of whooping and I don’t much like over-reliance on rhetorical questions: “Can you imagine the difference in interpretation that can occur between what the project manager wants and what is provided?”  Actually, I can, which is why I’m reading the book to find out what to do about it.

However, if you can get over the tone, which might work better for an American audience, there is plenty of good advice in here. It’s light and often high-level in places, but then you turn the page and you’re confronted with work breakdown structure creation or Monte Carlo simulation – the depth is certainly there.  The book is also scattered with exercises which help to consolidate the chapter contents.

I particularly liked the ‘In The Field’ sections, which have been contributed by project managers around the world, and are real-life tips to make things work better on your projects. The section on managing communications is also very rounded with solid advice.

The subtitle for the book is A Revolutionary Guide to What REALLY Matters when Managing Projects. I don’t think there is much in here that is revolutionary. The book covers the project management process – and Mulchay has her own, much the same as any other:  inititate, plan, execute, monitor and control, close.

It talks about creating a charter, managing scope and stakeholders, estimating, scheduling and risk management. It is good, comprehensive advice, with a few extras thrown in like the list of nine things your boss should be doing, and a page of ‘common errors that can ruin your career’ (sample: “Not having a WBS for all projects” – if that is true I’m doomed).

It wasn’t my cup of tea, but there is nothing wrong with the project management advice. The book also comes with a CD so you can take the electronic text anywhere with you – an excellent freebie for project managers on the go, especially as the book won’t fit comfortably into a normal-sized handbag.

In summary, it’s a good book for people who don’t have a lot of project management experience, but who have done some ‘official’ training and now want to know how to turn that into some kind of practical knowledge to put to work in the office.

About Elizabeth Harrin

Elizabeth HarrinElizabeth Harrin is a Fellow of the Association for Project Management in the UK and the award-winning blogger behind A Girl's Guide To Project Management. She's passionate about demystifying project management and making tools and techniques work in the real world. She's also the author of several books including the PMI bestseller, Collaboration Tools for Project Managers.

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