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Project Management: Two Books for Beginners

Reviewed by Vernon J. Edwards

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Project Management, 2d ed.

by Sunny Baker, Ph.D. and Kim E. Baker

Alpha Books, 2000

404 pages, $18.95 (paperback)

ISBN 0-02-863920-0

Project Management for Dummies

by Stanley E. Portny

Wiley Publishing, Inc., 2001

350 pages, $21.99 (paperback)

ISBN 0-7645-5283-X

One of the big management developments of the last decade was the growing interest in project management. As a recognized organizational discipline project management has been around since the 1950s, but interest in it exploded during the 1990s when businesses like AT&T, General Motors, IBM, Microsoft, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Blue Cross Blue Shield and others invested large sums in professional training for their employees. In response to the interest, several American universities began offering degrees in project management, including The George Washington University, Naval Postgraduate School, Florida Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, University of Alaska, University of Maryland, and University of Texas, to name just a few.

A professional organization, the Project Management Institute (PMI), was founded in 1965 and now has more than 100,000 members worldwide (http://www.pmi.org). It has developed a project management “body of knowledge” (PMBOK), which is the basis for a professional certification program. It has even developed a special supplement to that body of  knowledge for government projects. IBM employs more than 5,000 PMI members and Hewlett Packard employs nearly 2,000. AT&T, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motorola and other companies each employ more than 500, and Microsoft employs more than 300. Unlike some management fads, project management appears to be here to stay.

The Project Management Institute defines a project as “a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product or service.” According to PMI, organizational work can be grouped into two categories: operations and projects. Both types of work are performed by people, constrained by limited resources, and must be planned, executed and controlled, but projects differ from operations in that they are temporary and unique. Projects managers must work within a “triple constraint” — quality, time and budget, and it is the unique combination of the three constraints which makes project management a special challenge. In the world of government acquisition, many contract actions are projects, whether the acquisition is a “recompete” of an on-going service requirement, a contract for the development of a new weapon system, or an OMB Circular A-76 public-private competition.

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