by Stuart Dixon

Second Order Project Management

Book Review

Second Order Project Management by Michael Cavanagh
Second Order Project Management by Michael Cavanagh

By Michael Cavanagh

Second Order Project Management is split into two sections, each divided into four chapters, as well as an appendix containing a case study. The first section of the book explains what second order project management is about and explains some of the theories behind this, with links to the bibliography for further reading. The second section covers the more practical tools and techniques, which cover the practical applications of those theories into real-world practice.

Case studies cover how one of the techniques was used on a real project, investigating its successes and things to watch for in order to make implementation as smooth as possible.

Dotted throughout the book, and helpfully included as an appendix, are views from other practitioners on the world of complex projects. Alongside the theories listed in section one, you get the practical, real-world implementation viewpoint so you can see how well these theories may play out in your own organisation.

Given the title of the book, I felt that I was still missing a true understanding of what second order project management was. In the beginning I had a clear idea that first order project management was the technical project management skillsof earned value, PRINCE2 etc. But I felt the title needed to change to adequately reflect what the book was trying to offer the reader.

I felt let down by this book, as I didn’t feel it explained its subject matter well enough, and was missing a key part around the tools and techniques that could improve an individual’s leadership potential.

However, this was, in part, made up for by an excellent chapter on turning lessons identified into lessons learnt, and I am going to recommend this book to some of my fellow project managers on the strength of that chapter alone.

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