Making Sense of Project Realities: Theory, Practice and the Pursuit of Performance

Stephen Simister (Henley Management College,Henley‐on‐Thames, UK)

International Journal of Managing Projects in Business

ISSN: 1753-8378

Article publication date: 4 April 2008



Simister, S. (2008), "Making Sense of Project Realities: Theory, Practice and the Pursuit of Performance", International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, Vol. 1 No. 2, pp. 295-296.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

This is not a beginners guide to project management. Rather it is a thoughtful account of project management both as a discipline and business tool at the beginning of the twenty‐first century.

The book draws heavily on a two year research project Rethinking Project Management[1] for which Charles Smith was one of the research coordinators. In setting out the agenda for the book Charles states:

Our aim is to seek out the sense that can be made of projects, based on understandings of how they are experienced and handled by practitioners in the field.

This sums up nicely the essence of the book. It provides a series of observations and musings on the current state of project management. These observations are mainly from the author but good use is made of “practitioner stories” to illustrate key points.

The author introduces a wide range of specific terms such as ProjectCraft, Umbrella management, Peripety, etc. and provides a vocabulary and definitions for various terms used in the book. This is particularly useful since the author tends to have slightly different meanings for normal terms. For instance, the term “project” is defined as:

A purposeful collective endeavour that takes up a concept and implements it in order to realize something new.

Although not very different from most definitions I read elsewhere (PMI, APM, etc) it is sufficiently different to require defining for the purposes of the book. Of course, some terms are very different and you need to read the book to appreciate that “Priesthood” should be defined as “The groups who act as custodians of project management knowledge”!

The drawing together of practitioner and academic content is very well done and it is refreshing to see an author, who believes that both sides can learn from each other.

One slight criticism I do have is the structure of the book. Whilst, each chapter works well in its own right, I felt that, there was a lack of a golden thread, something which provides a common theme running throughout the entire work. I wonder if this was intentional since, the author generally provides a summary at the end of each chapter before moving onto the next topic.

In summary, the book provides insight and guidance on how to implement project management in complex organisations. If this is an environment you need to understand more clearly then this book is worth reading.


Further details of the EPSRC funded project, Rethinking Project Management can be viewed at the archived web site: where a copy of the final report may also be downloaded.

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