Books in Brief: Lessons learned from experience

Unlike other books of its ilk, Lessons in Project Management does not set out to teach you about some complicated project management scheme. It simply tries to teach basic concepts that apply no matter what complicated project management scheme you’re trying to use.

It does this by using a series of vignettes. The premise is that the author was recently hired by a large manufacturing company to mentor and assist the company’s project managers. In this position, he comes into contact with many different project managers working on many different types of projects who have many different types of problems.

Each vignette starts by telling a story about a problem one of the project managers is having. The “mentor” then discusses that problem in terms of a project management step.

For example, Lesson 31 tells the story of a project manager, Danielle Bartlett, who was just given responsibility for developing a Web-based portal for the company’s facilities department and its vendors. While everyone tells her the project should be a no-brainer, she’s uneasy about it. Her fears turn out to be well-founded and in discussing the project with the author, they identify risks that could torpedo the project.

The lesson is that before you begin working on a project, you should identify as many potential risks as you can. In Danielle’s project, one of the risks she identified was her own and her team’s inexperience with Web projects. Knowing this was a risk, Danielle could then find someone with experience in Web development to work with the team or to send team members for training.

The book comes with a CD-ROM that contains forms that can be used to help put the lessons you learn to good use.

Perhaps the best lesson this book teaches is that it’s best to step back and evaluate the project as dispassionately as possible. The role of the mentor is to look at the big picture and, from that vantage point, advise wisely.

Lessons in Project Management by Tom Mochal and Jeff Mochal, 312 pages. APress, Berkeley, Calif., 2004.

About the Author

Dan Romanchik is an engineering manager turned writer and Web developer. His current passion is amateur radio. You can read his amateur radio blog at


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