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Project Management: A Compact Guide to the Complex World of Project Management by Jefferson Hanley is a brief overview of the big, scary concept of business project management. When I say ‘brief’ I mean it. I selected, bought, read and finished the book before my first meeting this morning.

In actuality, it’s closer to a user manual than a book. Acronyms are rapidly adopted (and used too much) and there are no examples to help make the information into something that is easily synthesized. If you’ve ever read the user manual for some piece of software, you know what I’m talking about; yes, that’s what the tool does, but under what circumstances do users put that tool to use? It’s not clear, and this book doesn’t even touch it.

So it is with the “compact” guide to Project Management. If you’re familiar with the larger working elements of project management, this will put labels on and organize those elements into something that can be more succinctly understood.

The book is “broken up” into 7 sections/chapters that deal with the total concept of project management.

First, what project management really is, formally speaking. Followed by best practices regarding the structure or framework of project management, the lifecycle of a project, the process of progressing through that lifecycle, the areas of expertise within project management, and finally, project management in the course of day-to-day business life.

I had a hard time guessing who this text would actually be useful for. Someone new to project management isn’t going to get too much out of the text—the pacing and lack of examples is going to make it hard for a total novice to even know what’s going on. But, someone with project management experience probably needs something with more patience and meat to it. I’ve settled that question now though—this book is for people who might be interested in a career in project management, and want to decide if it’s worth investing time and energy into learning. No one is leaving this text with any kind of exhaustive understanding. But some might read this text, find it delightful to wonder about, and then pick up a book much richer in substance which will guide them through to being able to synthesize the information on their own.

This book was a dry, but easy read. Only about 5 to 10 minutes per chapter and I found it revealed some aspects of project management that I have not formalized in my own systems—namely the closing step: “What have we learned?”