Before I’d got far reading Gary Lloyd’s Business Leadership for IT Projects I realized he was offering a critical assessment on the Standish report on project failure – thankfully. I knew then that we were going to get along just fine.
Don’t get me wrong – I have no issue with the Standish research and the CHAOS report itself, but it is often used for a quick headline without any analysis of how the numbers were arrived at.
Gary doesn’t do that, and he’s thorough in his analysis and critical in his thinking. For example, in a book about IT projects one of the first assertions that he makes is that you simplify everything if you don’t do IT projects.
“[M]inimize the degree of IT change, and hence the risk, if you ask the team to generate zero or low-cost options, focusing on project redesign,” he writes.
Makes perfect sense to me.
The book is aimed at people who are in a project leadership position but who perhaps don’t have the hands on practical experience of a project manager.
So: business team managers, project and product owners and sponsors. If you can get them to read it, I can assure you that they will benefit!
There are nice hand-drawn line drawings throughout, and while Gary doesn’t blow his own trumpet about this, I am sure he has done them himself.
I saw a webinar he gave and he’d hand-drawn many of the slides, which gave a personal and informal touch to the content.
Finding What Matters
You can use the book two ways: either as an end-to-end discussion of the tools relevant throughout the project life cycle, or to dip in and out depending on where you are in the project today.
To this end, Gary has provided a handy table in Chapter 2 that shows what you can find where. It highlights the causes and frustrations related to project failure and which chapters address those points.
The call out boxes littered throughout are very helpful. They pinpoint the kind of questions that execs should be asking and what might catch you out. They highlight the most important things to focus on for that stage and give leaders a quick start in what they should be watching for.
For example, there’s a section that walk you through generating solution options and defining a solution – I can picture a manager having a sneaky glance at this book in her desk drawer before going into a meeting to face the project team, and it giving her the confidence she needs to lead the discussion as sponsor despite not having much project experience.
When people are looking to you as a the sponsor for direction or guidance on the issues that they can’t resolve themselves, this book will be a helpful guide to get you through.
There is also plenty of coverage of things to do if you are already part-way through your project, so you’ll get use out of the ideas and tools here even if you have already started work on something.
The book introduced me to the concept of value-based delivery. It’s a more ‘management-speak’ way of saying get some quick wins in along the way so you don’t have to wait until the end to see any benefit. It’s the kind of thing you know intuitively is a good idea and don’t necessarily have the vocab to explain. Now you do.
Honestly, that’s the most jargon in the whole book. It really is very straightforward and clearly written.
Go and talk ‘value-based delivery’ with your sponsor! Business Leadership for IT Projects is a book about project sponsorship, but you’d not know it from reading it.
It’s jargon-free, fluff-free and a helpful guide for anyone being thrust into a position of authority on a project who doesn’t really know what they should be looking out for.
This is a well-thought through book in many respects, written from a position of experience and quiet authority. Recommended.