Book Review: Project Management: A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling

Book Review: Project Management: A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling

The following is based on a book review of Harold Kerzner‘s project management “bible” titled, “Project Management: A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling“, that was originally posted on Amazon back in October 2, 2007 right after I passed my PMP.  Some reviewers on Amazon argued that this book was an “overkill” of information to prepare for the PMP and I counter argued that it depended on what level of preparation one was seeking.  Below is the review in full:

I will have to respectfully disagree with the reviewer who stated this book was not good for preparing for the PMP. Though I will have to admit that this depends on how extensive you want your PMP preparation to be as well as if throughly learning the subject of project management is more important than just passing the PMP. If this is the case, then this book will exceed these expectation on all counts.

On the structure and contents of the text, it has 23 chapters whereupon the first 10 chapters delve into the basic structure and organizational behaviors that create a need for project management. In a sense, these chapter deal with the “soft” issues in project management, since the success of projects depends on the people who work on them and the stakeholders and customers who support and drive the project initiative. As Kerzner states, “these first ten chapters are needed to understand the cultural environment for all projects and systems”. For those preparing for the PMP, chapter 3 titled “Organizational Structures” gives an in depth exposition of the types of organizational structures such as functional, matrix, and projectized that you will need to know for the PMP exam. You can see where much of what is in the chapter no doubt influenced the PMBOK.

Chapters 11-20 go into the heart of project management such as planning, scheduling, cost control, estimating, procurement and quality. These chapter are indeed “hard-core” project management tools and techniques that are systematically discussed in depth. But this is where much of the meat of project management is discussed and where all the major PMP exam subjects are covered. Particularly relevant are these chapters:

11 – Planning
12 – Network Scheduling Techniques
14 – Pricing and Estimating
15 – Cost Control
17 – Risk Management
19 – Contracts and Procurement
20 – Quality Management

I would recommend reading these chapter once through, then answering the questions at the end of the chapters, and going back to sections you were not clear about. Unlike the previous editions, this one has answers for the end of chapter questions and I found them relevant to the study of the PMP exam.

The last 3 chapters are an advanced overview of topics such as developing your own project management methodology, critical chain (which you may get a question or two on), and the Project Management Office (PMO). These chapters can be glanced over or skipped for another time.

I can recall when I took a PMP exam prep class with the PMI LA chapter, that many instructors acknowledged the greatness of this book and the likelihood of learning everything you need to know for the PMP exam if studied exhaustively, but also kept saying what an enormous tome it is at 1000+ pages and the exhaustive technical details of project management laid out, that most recommended not to use the resource unless you had a lot of time and stamina.

Hearing this, I was both intrigued and intimidated when I saw this book at Borders, but after picking it up and skimming it over and reading some sections, I found it quite readable, if a bit text bookish and academic. I will say this though, it is definitely more readable then the PMBOK. I promise!

Consider though that if you read the PMBOK (which many recommend you read several times) and a couple prep books, you have in fact read thousands of pages preparing for the PMP exam.

In all seriousness though, if it is your desire to simply pass the PMP exam and/or your pressed for time, then perhaps it is better to just purchase the PMBOK and Rita’s text (which I did not like at all) and just cram and memorize. There’s nothing wrong with that, as people taking the PMP exam are busy professionals without a lot of time.

But if you are planning to take your time and want to throughly learn the science and art of project management as well as pass the PMP exam with flying colors, then I wholeheartedly recommend this book. One way or another you will be referencing this book if you are a true project management professional.

I utilized this book in my studies for the PMP exam, and was able to pass in the upper 80th percentile and did not need to resort to any form of memorization or cramming, nor did I resort to doing a “brain dump” sheet on the day of the exam.

Happy studies and good luck to all you aspiring PMP project managers!

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