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Reconstructing Project Management by Peter W. G. Morris Wiley-Blackwell, 2013, ISBN: 9780479659076, hardcover, 342 pp., $85.45 Member, $89.95 Nonmember.

Peter Morris’ Reconstructing Project Management is a thought-provoking, stimulating book. The title itself is intriguing, implying that it is time to rethink our approaches to managing projects. This is not yet another book on implementing project management techniques, managing a PMO, or configuring a project portfolio. Rather, it is an exercise in stock-taking, stepping back to look at the 60- to 100-year history of the emergence of project management (Part 1. Constructing Project Management), examining where it stands now (Part 2. Deconstructing Project Management), and suggesting where it should be headed (Part 3. Reconstructing Project Management).

One of Morris’ primary goals in writing this book is to challenge project management practitioners and scholars to come to grips with the big issues of project management. Sometimes he does this by playing the role of iconoclast. In Part 1, for example, he reveals that the origins of project management go far beyond the Manhattan Project and Polaris missile project (where PERT was invented), which are universally highlighted in project management textbooks. He engages in myth-busting by pointing out that the Manhattan Project did not actually employ project management tools and techniques, as they ultimately emerged in the 1950s, and that PERT did not fulfill its promise on Polaris. In Part 3, he dares ask: “Have we even made the case that adopting project management does benefit organizational performance?” The answer: “It is far from being self-evident.”

Overall, the book is well-presented, but two specific contributions make it worth the cover price. First, in keeping with his attention to the big issues, Morris discusses the relative merits of four project management bodies of knowledge (PMBoKs): the PMI, APM, IPMA, and Japanese PMBoKs. His presentation is interesting, informative, and bound to stimulate debate, highlighting where the PMBoKs differ and where they overlap. Second, Appendix 1, Critical Success Factor Studies, offers a table that summarizes the findings of 65 studies that identify factors that contribute to project success and failure. The Appendix allows both scholars and practitioners to get up to speed quickly in this area.

If this book has a second edition, Morris might consider dedicating more attention to project management in the IT arena, because in IT, project management has experienced substantial reconstruction over the past 25 years. Since Barry Boehm described the Spiral Model of software development in 1988, IT developers have gravitated to non-linear approaches to gathering requirements, designing solutions, and writing and testing software, resulting in what are now called the agile and iterative techniques. These techniques, which today dominate small and medium-sized IT projects, operate outside the traditional system development paradigm as defined by the highly linear Waterfall Model (concept, preliminary design, detailed design, execution, etc.). They come in many flavors, ranging from the micro-projects that Morris briefly mentions and that are handled with hyper-flexible techniques such as Scrum, to much larger projects that are carried out using methodologies, such as the Rational Unified Process (RUP), that entail localized flexible development operating within a rigid, formal framework.

Although this is a relatively short book—about 300 pages long—project management practitioners and scholars will find that it touches on nearly all the significant issues facing project management theory and practice today. For readers who want to know what's what in project management, beyond tools and techniques, this is a good book to read. Obviously, it cannot cover many of the issues in depth, owing to space limitations, but by surfacing them even briefly, it places them on the readers’ radar screens, so that they have a good sense of what is considered important today.


  1. Top of page
  2. Biography
  • Reviewed by J. Davidson Frame, PhD, PMP, PMI Fellow, Academic Dean, University of Management and Technology, Arlington, VA, USA.