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Required reading for all project managers and sponsors
on July 11, 2003
This volume may be the best one I have ever read on the subject of risk in the project arena. Kendrick has captured the best of current practical thinking on project risk and how to identify and manage it. And the author has carefully linked theory and practice to the Project Management Institute's "Project Mangement Body of Knowledge." In addition this book is exceedingly well written and very readable (a rarity in this genre).
Kendrick approaches risk identification from the perspective of the project manager in the areas of scope (project deliverables and product), resources (people, materials, and money), and schedule (time). He addresses each area in a separate chapter with practical advice on how to identify and document potential risks. An aspect of these three chapters I particularly appreciate is the depth of information that allows the reader to address each area of risk at different levels. Kendrick does this by providing an array of analytical tools. For example in Chapter 4, "Identifying Project Schedule Risks," the reader could use the list of common schedule risks and probably account for 80% of the schedule risks for their project, or move to a deeper analysis of risks associated with delays, dependencies, and errors in estimation. In the area of estimation the reader is presented with an array of estimating techniques that can be used as appropriate to detect potential risks in estimation.
Chapter seven on "Quantifying and Analyzing Activity Risk" appears just in time. After reading the first six chapters the reader may throw up their hands and declare "I can't manage all of this!" As an experienced project manager, Kendrick gives us tools to help select the risks to manage. All potential risks on a project are not manageable or worth the time and effort to manage. This chapter gives sage advice on how to select the vital few.
A key element in Kendrick's approach is distinguishing what he calls "activity risk" from "project risk." It is easy for the project manager to focus on risks associated with various activities and forget the larger picture. In fact there may be times when the risks associated with each activity seem minor but when the project is viewed as a whole the project is very risky. Kendrick provides tools for quantifying and analyzing risk at the project level as well as a chapter on managing project level risk.
I end this review with three overall comments. First, pages 17-24 should be required reading for all senior managers and anyone who sponsors a project and there should be a test at the end. The biggest risk for too many projects is unknowing, unthinking, or uncaring managers who are driven by near term profits and stock prices. Second, readers should not be put off by Kendrick's inclusion of statistical and mathematical information. Such information comprises less than 5% of this book and it would be a shame to miss the other 95% due to a fear and loathing of numbers. Finally, if you can't find any other reason to read this gem, read it for the intriguing history of the building of the Panama Canal. If Kendrick ever decides to stop managing projects, he has a bright future as a writer of interesting history.