Book review: Optimizing Human Capital with a Strategic Project Office

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Cover image of Optimizing Human CapitalI wish I hadn’t given this book away.  It’s a desk reference for the kind of job I do now – managing project managers – and it’s very, very useful.

Optimizing Human Capital with a Strategic Project Office:  Select, Train, Measure, and Reward People for Organization Success by J. Kent Crawford and Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin has an awkwardly long title. It’s also not particularly attractive, with a rather old-fashioned looking cover. But inside, it’s everything you need to get the best out of project managers, even if you don’t have a Strategic Project Office (SPO).

“At first glance, it might seem folly to propose project management as a solution to organizational problems, given the discipline’s reputation for project failures,” write the authors.  They do propose it though – arguing in the early sections of the book that taking a project focus across a company can result in better alignment of strategic goals to actual deliverables:

A frequent refrain in the business press is that projects must develop more of a business focus.  The same might be said of business: that is, a project focus is required.  Without a project focus at the highest level of the business, projects seem to pop up at will across the organization, generating confusion.

Optimizing Human Capital is a very practical book.  The authors make the point that it is not an academic book, but each chapter is deeply referenced with several pages of notes.  Chapter 3, about competency-based employment and how to hire effectively, is excellent, with lots of advice on recruiting and project management competency models.

There’s also good advice on managing turnover, performance, retention and coaching.  The authors also consider career paths and there is some useful information on how to build a career path for the project managers in the organization.  Even if you are a project manager and not in a position to put this into practice, it’s an interesting read as it shows what potential career paths are open to you.  And of course, you can always suggest their model to your Project Office managers!

I particularly liked the appendices.  Appendix A lists sample role descriptions for every project-related role you can think of from Chief Project Officer to Project Estimator and Project Office Administrator.

Appendix B is an excerpt from a project management maturity model, and the other appendices also have useful copy-and-paste information that you can pick up and use instantly in your organization.  Why reinvent the wheel?  If you are in charge of a project office, this will be a great asset to your corporate library.

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