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Prologue

Here is a word of advice for anyone thinking of running a project: don’t.

There are few human endeavours where you will find more opportunities for entertainment, a sense of achievement through fine teamwork and long term damage to your career.

So when someone offers you the chance to run a project you may:

A . . grab the opportunity with both hands whilst scanning the situations vacant pages
B . . hand in your notice there and then
C . . hide behind any convenient piece of office furniture or slow moving colleague.

All three options may get you into serious trouble and may even cause you to join the long-term unemployed. At root the problem is this: personal success in projects is vanishingly rare.

In the unlikely event that the project goes as smoothly as a baby’s bottom and you deliver the right thing on time, to budget and appear to encounter no great problems, you’ll be disappointed to discover that no one will take a blind bit of notice. They will all be far too busy worrying about other projects that are deep in the doodoo - and that will include almost all projects but yours.

If however you project goes normally, which is as smooth as an old alligator’s bottom, people will regale you with views on you how you should have done it, how they would have done it in your place and how your career is now in a terminal nosedive.

Therefore there is only one strategy for succeeding in project management. You must learn to run your projects as smoothly as you can so that they achieve all of their objectives, whilst in the background, carefully orchestrating a series of small but apparently enormous problems that you may be observed to brilliantly overcome.

Despite all this project and programme management can be enormously rewarding.

You have bought, borrowed or stolen this book so you may be intent on a career in project or programme management. If so, this book is designed to help you with the smooth bit. No one needs a book to teach them how to create their own obstacles.

To help you to understand the practical problems of managing projects and your career, this book is written partly as a novel and partly as a text book.

The (hopefully) three dimensional characters will meet a wide range of practical problems as they try to get their organisation up to speed so as to effectively run a portfolio of projects and programmes while simultaneously running an important and challenging project.

You will understand their problems. You will share with them a variety of sources of fact and formal text book knowledge. You will read how they apply the text-book knowledge to their work.

This is like a huge case study. You will find that all the actual detailed documents, including bar charts, risk registers and so on are available and you are free to download these and use them in any way you wish.

We hope you will find the story realistic, a tale you will be able to understand and relate to. But the story is after all only a vehicle in which ride the ideas and techniques of project management.

But why a novel?  We have tried hard to weave into the tale as many of the practical problems and great ideas that no simple text book can hope to convey; those that come alive within a realistic background. If you keep your eyes open you will get a wide variety of hints and bits of common sense that may help you in your own work. Common sense is in very short supply in project management.

To help set the scene at the beginning, there will be more novel than text book. The first few chapters focus on the issues organisations face when trying to introduce formal portfolio management. If you are really only interested in running a project you can skip over chapters 1 to 3 and start at 4.

To avoid undue stress you can be assured that no one quits, gets fired or has a nasty accident. We could not end the story with an unsuccessful project so the project will end satisfactorily and yes, this is a work of fiction. To maintain an appropriate level of tension you may like to remember that at an important meeting someone will spill some hot coffee on a project plan and on a colleague’s expensive clothes.

We hope you will enjoy it, gain a lot from it and, if you insist in getting involved in project management, that you escape intact.

 

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Prologue

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