The Oxford Handbook of Project Management. Series The Oxford Handbook of Project Management

Derek H.T. Walker (RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia)

International Journal of Managing Projects in Business

ISSN: 1753-8378

Article publication date: 13 September 2011



Walker, D.H.T. (2011), "The Oxford Handbook of Project Management. Series The Oxford Handbook of Project Management", International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, Vol. 4 No. 4, pp. 720-723.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

This book is the latest in a set of PM handbooks that Morris and Pinto have edited, for example refer to Morris and Pinto (2004, 2007). Readers that expect from these editors rigour and cutting edge contributions by leading scholars in this field will not be disappointed. This book also has Jonas Söderlund as a Co‐Editor and contributor with a characteristically insightful chapter on theoretical foundations of PM that is invaluable for any scholar who is writing a literature review as not only is it a comprehensive and engaging chapter but the references cited provide a gold stream of authorities to consider. Similarly, Morris' Chapter 1 on a brief history of PM provides a wonderful context for this book and for any scholar looking for an authoritative account of PM over the decades.

I am particularly interested in books that provide great citations and insights that can be referred to by those writing scholarly papers or a thesis. I found this book an invaluable asset and in fact ordered copies for my colleagues and six copies for our library. It a heavy book, in weight and content so it was one that took me several weeks if not months to absorb but I found it well worth the effort. One method by which I judge such books is I look at my scribbled notes that I make on the inside cover pages and I look to see how many references I have asterisked and followed up on. In this case the first few pages of my copy appear defaced with my almost illegible handwritten notes and at the end of each chapter I have starred many cited papers and downloaded them and read them. The book comprises six well‐linked parts with 21 chapters.

Part 1 is about history and foundations with four chapters. Chapter 1 is about the history of PM by Peter Morris and Chapter 2 theoretical foundations by Söderlund. This gives a strong basis for the rest of the book. The remaining chapters in that section are a discussion of the evolution of PM as evidenced from the journals with PMJ, IJPM and IEEE featured as the editors of these journals are the co‐authors of the chapter. It is a very interesting chapter. It does not include IJMPiB or discussion of papers appearing in a whole range of management or engineering journals but it does provide a clear focus on what has been “hot topics” over the years and it is fascinating to see how the discipline has grown and matured over time so this is very useful and valuable. Chapter 4 by Hodgson and Muzio discusses professionalism in PM. This view of PM and the way it has grown and emerged as a scholarly field provides a suitable and valuable contribution to Part 1.

Part 2 is about industry and context with three valuable chapters. Chapter 5 by Artto, Davies, Kujala and Principe provide an exceptionally strong discussion of project business. This really builds upon the foundations of Part 1 and shows how PM has been maturing and what gaps and opportunities lie ahead for further scholarship in this topic. Chapter 6 by Besnen and Marshall focuses on projects and partnerships. Many will be familiar with their work and how it links people and organisational partnering as a vibrant field of study in PM. The lens of institutional and emergent practices provides an interesting perspective on partnering and PM. Chapter 7 on project ecologies by Grabher and Ibert brings in the temporary organisation view of PM and this adds a vital perspective of PM as groups of collaborators working in an environment and how that milieu helps or hiders project work.

Part 3 is about strategy and decision making. Chapter 8 by Söderlund and Tell discusses the P‐form organisation and extends the classic theory of organisational form from Chandler's conception of the M‐form and compares contingencies and characteristics of both forms and presents challenges encountered. This provides a sound basis to the book on organisational forms and structures. In keeping with a focus on strategy, Chapter 9 by Loch and Kavadias discuss how projects are vehicles for realizing strategy and how portfolios of projects achieve this. It also explains how stakeholder focus is essential in developing the purpose of projects to deliver strategy and change. This segues well into a valuable overview on program management in Chapter 10 by Pellegrenelli, Partington and Geraldi where they lay out a research agenda that many readers will find interesting. Chapter 11 by Brady and Hobday discuss projects and innovation. Their work along with Davies (Chapter 5) has been highly influential in PM innovation and learning with their conceptualization of projects involving complex products and services and therefore expanding the required competencies of project managers. If PM is about realizing benefits and change then innovation is a critical aspect of this.

Part 4 is about project governance and control. Traditional PM has been focused in planning and control in a number of forms. While this book and current PM thought leadership questions what PM is and how control is real or illusionary, governance is about what rules and arrangement bound PM and so this is highly relevant as a body of knowledge in helping us understand how PM can practically make a contribution to business and engineering scholarship (as well as most other disciplines that enact their initiatives through projects so PM is in many ways, ubiquitous). Chapter 12 by Müller is a classic. He has written widely in this area including a recent PMI book (Müller, 2009) and this chapter, as with many other authors in this book, provides both an overview and sample of their work and ideas that can be followed up by the discerning reader from references provided. Governance is a bit of a black box or fashionable term so understanding what it means an how it shapes PM is of pivotal importance. This is followed in Chapter 13 by Flyvbjerg's over budget, over time over and over again discussion. Many readers interested in project procurement ay be familiar with Bent's papers on optimism bias or strategic lying as he sometimes refers to this subject. It makes great reading for those who are involved in business case development or appraisal. Winch and Maytorena present in Chapter 14 a discussion on managing risk and uncertainty. This is an area of PM that is often presented in a formulaic fashion as if PM has special franchise on how to manage risk. This chapter is refreshing as it considers much of the difficult to know stuff of PM, the unknown unknowns so it is an honest contribution to a part of PM with many gaps unfilled. The following chapter 15 by Whyte and Levitt on information management and projects is a natural follow on. Their chapter helps us understand how information is critical and how technology has assisted us to better process information to make PM decisions.

Part 5 is about contracting and relationships. I must acknowledge my bias here in that one of my intense interest areas is in relationship‐based procurement so I do tend to rave about work in this area. Chapter 16 by Cova and Salle is about the nature of how projects depend upon relationships within a supply chain and PM teams to shape project scope and delivery. This is followed by Chapter 17, innovating practice of normative control in PM contractual relationships by Clegg, Bjørgkeng and Pitsis. It beautifully links in transaction cost economics with project alliancing. My own recent work fits into this area and I really benefitted from reading this chapter. I think that Clegg's background and PhD thesis provides a particularly rich contribution to PM. His social science and general management background provides intellectual depth to this area that is in my view particularly valuable. Chapter 18 by Gil, Pinto and Smyth on trust is a natural segue to the previous chapter and this is one feature of this book that I appreciated. It does link and flows well. This chapter provides an interesting case study example based on Terminal five, Heathrow Airport project which was lauded as an exemplar model of collaborative relational‐based procurement practices. While the project experienced an extremely embarrassing opening that belied its project delivery lessons learned from the phases up to live project opening are significant and critical to advancing PM. This chapter provides some background to that process, specifically the relevance of trust and the trust‐but‐verify qualification to trust based procurement.

Part 6 Organisational Learning as the final part of the book contains highly salient lessons for advanced PM. It opens with Chapter 19 “Knowledge integration in product development projects” by Lundkvist. This is an emerging area of PM research that is growing in popularity of interest because it is people who deliver projects and their knowledge is crucial to project delivery. This chapter adopts a 4‐cell typology of project knowledge management (KM) logic with type of complexity on the X axis categorised as analysable or systemic and on the Y‐axis Degree of Novelty categorised as exploitation and exploration. This proves a useful way to make sense of project KM and he uses two different types project as a case study to compare how KM took place and what lessons can be learned from the cases. This is followed by Chapter 20 “leadership and teamwork in dispersed projects” by Hoegle, Muethel and Gemunden. I found this relevant and interesting because it not only raised useful aspects of leadership in teams of knowledge workers with high levels of expertise but is brought in concepts of shared‐team leadership. They look at the quality of teamwork, collaboration and knowledge sharing through the lens of a six facets framework that two of the authors had developed and published on earlier. I found myself starring and retrieving a number of papers on this work cited in this chapter that I otherwise might not have stumbled across. Chapter 21 by Hällgren and Söderholm “Projects‐as‐practice new approaches, new insights” is the last chapter in this book. It fits in well with the re‐thinking PM suggested directions for scholarly research (Winter et al., 2006), particularly the directions of research directions one and four. They argue for the value of such research in helping us challenge assumptions about PM in general and how project managers deal with unexpected events that cause them to re‐assess plans and cope with complexities. Again this is about collaboration and knowledge and perception sharing and fits well in the section of the book.

This book is in my opinion a gem. Chapters by leading scholars in PM who are challenging the boundaries and plugging gaps in theory and analysis of practice are leading edge reading for scholars and practitioners. Readers who are aware of the literature see in these chapters some repetition of work cited in the chapter references. This is not a fault. The references alone are particularly valuable. Many of the contributors cite both relevant and salient work of theirs that by dint of page count constraints force them to rely on citing previous work. They also cite seminal works as well as bleeding‐edge research publications so this book represents a window on as current PM thinking as can be expected in a book of some 550 pages or so.

Many readers of this review may be either post graduate student practioners who have sufficient practice knowledge to understand the theoretical and pragmatic implications of these chapters. Academics will find this book either a useful core text or at least a highly recommended reference. I teach into a masters program and supervise numerous doctoral students and I feel this is a “must‐have” book for those who can absorb PM practice‐based theory on chapter sized chunks rather than rely on abstracts or power‐point summaries.


Morris, P.W.G. and Pinto, J.K. (Eds) (2004), The Wiley Guide to Managing Projects. Series The Wiley Guide to Managing Projects, Wiley, New York, NY.

Morris, P.W.G. and Pinto, J.K. (Eds) (2007), The Wiley Guide to Project and Portfolio Management. Series The Wiley Guide to Project and Portfolio Management, Wiley, Hoboken, NJ.

Müller, R. (2009), Project Governance, Gower, Farnam.

Winter, M., Smith, C., Morris, P.W.G. and Cicmil, S. (2006), “Directions for future research in project management: the main findings of a UK government‐funded research network”, International Journal of Project Management., Vol. 24 No. 8, pp. 63849.

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