Bedtime Stories for Project Managers (Book Review)


This book encourages project management professionals to reflect on and interpret their experiences, using (more or less familiar) bedtime stories as inspiration.

What’s inside

Each chapter of the book relates a reasonably well-known fable or fairy story, and interprets it through the lens of project management to extract some learning that may be of benefit to project management professionals in their work.

The premise of extracting lessons from familiar children’s stories rather than from dry accounts of “genericised”, fictionalised projects is an interesting and entertaining approach. This is mostly successful, for example:

  • The Stone Soup chapter tells of a traveller who started off trying to make soup with just a stone and some water, but ended up with lots of ingredients after some passers-by had chipped in. The author links this nicely to a series of points on the importance of well-defined scope, the application of a change control process and managing stakeholder expectations.
  • The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing chapter leads elegantly to a description of watermelon reporting (projects masquerading as something that they are not) and the need for both transparency in reporting and objective performance indicators.

However, the approach feels a little tenuous and laboured with some chapters; although the project management advice is mostly generally-accepted wisdom, the links to it from the bedtime story are far less clear.

Some of my favourite take-aways

Perhaps unsurprisingly for a book written by an enthusiastic PMO supporter, the book concludes (and I agree) that the PMO is ideally placed to:

  • Provide independent scrutiny of projects
  • Identify when projects cannot deliver their business cases and so should be stopped (i.e. when the Emperor has no Clothes)
  • Root out deceptive reporting (i.e. watermelon or green-side-up reporting, or wolves in sheep’s clothing), and champion openness and transparency

The Verdict

  • At just 84 readable pages (excluding the extensive bibliography and author profile at the back), this book is disappointingly short, and this with the RRP makes the price-per-actionable insight less favourable than most project management book offerings. However the style and premise is engaging, and the advice is solid (although somewhat basic).
  • Novice project managers with minimal experience to draw on will find it easy to relate to the familiarity of the Bedtime Stories, and more seasoned project managers will find it amusing to be reminded of project management principles in a refreshing way.
Full title:Bedtime Stories for Project Managers - And others with trouble sleeping
Author:Marisa Silva
Publisher:CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016
RRP:£13.99 (review copy supplied free of charge by the publishers)

Author: Ken Burrell

Ken Burrell is a Programme and Portfolio Office (PMO) Professional, who through his company Pragmatic PMO makes targeted improvements to PMO practices to add value to Projects, Programmes and Portfolios. He provides senior management with the analysis they need to make decisions, and gives project and programme managers the support they need to deliver solutions.

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