Book Review: Steering Project Success – What More is Possible ?

Author: Madhavan S. Rao

Managing IT projects in an environment of rapidly changing customer requirements, uncertain business scenario and umpteen numbers of risks and vulnerabilities is a real challenge.
More than 60 % projects are either highly challenged or are failures (Chaos Report 2011). Clearly there needs to be a better way of managing the projects in today’s environment. A formal training in project management tools and techniques is necessary but not a sufficient condition to ensure a project success. Something extra is required.
The author of this book, Madhavan S Rao, a Project Management Professional (PMP) with more than 20 years of experience in successfully managing IT projects, provides this much needed extra edge in form of Seven Mantras to steer the projects to successful outcomes.

The Seven Mantras are:
1.    Forseeing  the Bigger Picture
2.    Investing in Customer and Team Education
3.    Information Seeding
4.    Perception Management
5.    Learning to say a Positive NO/ Conditional YES
6.    Steering Comfort Levels
7.    Thinking   $£€` for  Stakeholders

It is evident from the above list that all these Mantras deal with softer aspects of a project viz; people management, interpersonal relationship, and entrepreneurial thinking.

Armed with 100 real-life case studies  the author demonstrates in this book  how these  Mantras can effectively combat the common project vulnerabilities associated with  – ambiguous requirements, scope creep, shared development, new domain/technology,  hardware or software infrastructure, human resource issues (skill availability, motivation/morale, attrition, idle time),  incorrect estimates, undocumented/ unshared assumptions, unshared commitments, differences in perception, and delayed feedback.

Case studies associated with each Mantra are described as per the following format:

  • Context:  A concise description of situation
  • Description: Gives a brief background of the project and the issues for the team
  • Approach: Explains the approach adopted by the team to resolve the issues.
  • Outcome: Shares the results achieved by the team using the Mantra
  • Takeaway: Summarizes the learning from the case study
  • Related Mantra: Lists the other Mantras that can be used in the situation

These case studies are also appropriately mapped to Project Management Knowledge Areas and Process as defined by PMI (Project Management Institute) and also to the relevant SDLC (Software Development Lifecycle) phase.

The Seven Mantras are a part of a framework conceived and named by the author as “Project Assurance Management”.  He conceived this framework after a result of a long term (and ongoing) study and introspection on, what Project Management Professionals could do to overcome the unresolved project related challenges and what more can possibly be done.
The book has a chapter on Project Assurance Management which follows the preceding seven chapters dealing with the Seven Mantras and the case studies related to them. Here the author positions Project Assurance Management as a framework that complements the traditional practice of Project Risk Management.  While Risk Management deals with uncertainties in a project, Assurance Management focuses on “enhancing  the leadership mindset by visualizing and utilizing all opportunity spaces (i.e. the situations that can be used to improve project outcomes”) to the fullest potential in a real-time manner to steer projects to success.”

The author also proposes a disciplined approach to implement Project Assurance Management in form of four principles:

  1. Seeding:  Any activity performed to create opportunities that positively affect the project outcome and also the customer relationship.
  2. Ecosystem Engineering: Focused modification of project conditions and situations to make them conducive to smooth execution of the project. This can be achieved through perception management, real-time ecosystem scanning and implementing dynamic methodologies to achieve stakeholder buy-in.
  3. Pre-emption: Deliberate creation of the right circumstances that will pre-empt or negate any troubled situation arising in the project. This proactively takes into account the human frailties that lead to many project challenges.
  4. Innovative Paradigms: Having a framework in place that enables stakeholders to break out of the existing paradigm of doing things.

The last section of the book has contributions from 20 thought leaders and practice leaders from the Indian IT scene. They come from a wide cross-section of roles ranging from Founders, CEO to Project Managers. These leaders have played leading roles in industry bodies like NASSCOM, in professional bodies like Project Management Institute Chapters and also in various well-known IT companies in India. They share their perspectives on how to empower Project Management professionals to deliver much more than what seems possible and take the project to the next level of success.
This book is a valuable addition to the project management literature.  The main beneficiaries of this book will be project managers from Indian IT service industry. There are not many practical and informative books for this audience. This book fills the long-felt gap.  Not many books have more than 100 case studies described in such a concise (maximum 3 pages per case study) and elegant manner. It is written in a style which project managers can easily relate to.  The sharing of perspectives by the industry leaders is yet another highlight of this book.
In the forthcoming editions, it would nice to see the following enhancements/changes in this book:

  • Case studies can be categorized in terms of problems and issues faced by the project and mapped to Mantras.  To give an analogy, presently the book first describes the medicine (Mantras) and then tells the patient (project manager) which diseases (issues) it can cure.  From the patient’s (project manager’s) perspective it will be more helpful if she is told which medicine to take (i.e. which Mantra to practice) to cure a particular disease (i.e. to address the issues confronting her)
  • A consolidated table which maps the SDLC, Project Management Knowledge Areas and Project Management Process to all the case studies discussed in this book can be provided as an Appendix.  This will enable the reader to easily locate the case studies related to a particular Knowledge Area, Project Management Process or a SDLC phase.

This is a book which every Project Manager (especially those in Indian IT service industry) should read and often refer to!

Book Details: Paperback – 292 pages; Published – 2011; Publisher – Assurance Consulting, Bengaluru, India

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5 Responses to Book Review: Steering Project Success – What More is Possible ?

  1. Rathina says:

    Very positive and befitting review. Keep up the good work.

  2. Srinivasan S says:

    Dear Sir,

    Overall the course looks very impressive and it should be very useful for IT Managers.
    Can you please let me know how many PDUs can be gained through this one day programme?

    Thanks for your early response.
    Srinivasan S

  3. Hi,

    I happened to see the query quite late. As Author of the above book (Steering Project Success- What More is Possible?” ; would like to share the following:

    - I thank Mr Gopinath for his excellent review of the SPS subject
    - The URL’s to get latest information on SPS books/workshops is as follows.

    1) About Program Agenda and Benefits –
    2) Logistics Required for the 1 day Workshop –
    3) Pre-Program Questionnaire –
    4) Past Conference Presentations and Workshops –
    5) About the Facilitator –
    6) To access the SPS Course book
    pl see

    The next couple of SPS Workshops are on

    July 11th 2015 – Bangalore
    July 18th 2015 – New Delhi

    Pl feel free to contact me for further details
    Madhavan S Rao, PMP

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