Evolutionary Learning

in Strategy-Project Systems



Book Title:  Evolutionary Learning in Strategy-Project Systems
Authors:  Paul Gardiner, Adil Eltigani, Terence Williams, Richard Kirkham, Lixiong Ou, Antonio Calabrese, Jonas Soderlund
Publisher:  Project Management Institute, Inc.
List Price:   $34.95
Format:  Paperback, 277 pages
Publication Date:  2018
ISBN: 978-1-62825-484-6
Reviewer:   Sean M. Thomas, PMP
Review Date:  January 2019



At its core, “Evolutionary Learning in Strategy-Project Systems” is a research study in what makes organizations of all shapes and sizes more effective and more efficient.  The focus becomes sharper when the research indicates that the individuals hold the key to success by means of their contributions toward organizational assets (ex: knowledge base establishment and use) and a concerted focus on serious reflections of results, as well as allusions to the three types of reflective practice.

There is a constant undercurrent of supported theory throughout these co-authored works that “moderately and highly mature organizations follow diverse models of learning with a focus on social interactions as a medium for learning.”  Re-stated simply, the more successful organizations are found to place stronger emphasis on multiple means of acquiring and utilizing their knowledge/organizational assets, whereas organizations of lesser discipline in this area are found to be quite the opposite, being far less effective and efficient in using their knowledge and abilities (human resources largely) to capture, review, learn from, and use results of the same.  This means mistakes are repetitious when unacknowledged.

Overview of Book’s Structure

This book begins with a Foreword by Dr. Edward J. Hoffman, Former NASA Chief Knowledge Officer, who explains through experience that the difference between practice and theory can be vast, but relevant.  While knowledge, in and of itself, is not new, the handling, processing, storage, and retrieval of knowledge is very much new, and relatively unexplored.  He explains that Knowledge officers, when brought into an organization, are largely and necessarily of a different background than the organizational mission itself, as well as the resources (human resources for example) it utilizes.  This fact places immediacy on the new knowledge officer to be presented with the mission, the processes, the plans and actions, and the needs/requirements of proper learning and knowledge handling/usage.  Finally, he calls for the strong focus on practice and capability development both, which will make findings such as the ones in this book, altogether relevant for organizations seeking greater excellence.

The books introduction begins be acknowledging the disparity in the Project Management field that there is a definite lack of unity on where project management is and where it’s going.  But “Evolutionary Learning in Strategy-Project Systems” shines a bright light on how organizations might effectively bring order out of Project Management chaos.  It draws on leading theories of top researchers to aid in stemming-the-tide of those chaos-sayers and malcontent-manufacturers.  It’s important, for the sake of perspective, to understand that there is a honest attempt here to re-think project management in terms of combining it with strategic management.  This theory embraces the idea that project management is complex, and therefore new paradigms are inevitable, particularly in systematically fostering learning and capability development.

Next the book delves into briefly explaining and dissecting the lucid works of past researchers such as Deming, Mintzberg and Waters, Leybourne, Almarri and Gardiner, Killen, Juille & Pollack, Laszlo, Giddens, and many more.  All aspects of business complexity, from Quality to Risk, Resources to Knowledge Acquisition, acknowledgment versus acceptance, and all other aspects and contributors to Organizational success, all point to the notion that complexity characterizes all human endeavors today (page 17).

The pilot research focused on issues of learning and value in complex projects (p. 45).  Different stakeholders in different organizations were used to collect the data used in this study, and results in support of the evolutionary learning theory are found at every level in each researched organization.  There are sharp distinctions made to distinguish the correct and incorrect use of technical verbiage, which elucidates the topic for the reader with effectiveness, without belaboring the ideas.  These distinctions afford the reader a definite ability to comprehend the ideas and findings with consistent immediacy.  The results of the study are 15 identified modes of learning that are “active in shaping and honing the strategy-project system for competitive advantage”.


An interesting part of this literature is the summary of the main points of five central issues associated with capability building, which are as follows (p. 38):


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About the Reviewer

Sean M. Thomas, PMP

San Antonio, TX, USA



At present, Sean is the VP of Marketing for the Alamo Chapter of the Project Management Institute, located in San Antonio, Texas.  Sean holds an MBA from University of Texas at San Antonio as well as the PMI credentials PMP and PMI-ACP.  He is also a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt (LSSBB).  Through his company, he teaches PMP and PMI-ACP Exam Prep Courses all over the world for government and non-government organizations alike, his students boasting the world’s highest PMP and PMI-ACP exam first-time test-taking pass rate of 99.7% (a near 3-sigma standard), for all students who follow the careful course curriculum designed by Sean himself.

Sean helps companies/organizations get their projects back on track and deliver their results on time and on budget, and provides training for those organizations to empower them to achieve the same on future projects, endeavors, and operations.

Sean is an Adjunct Faculty/Professor for Hallmark University in San Antonio, TX, teaching for the Schools of Business and Information Technology, including Project Management, Macro and Micro Economics, Marketing, Resource Management, Entrepreneurism, Mathematics/Statistics, etc.  Sean has ten years experience in the US Army, both in demolitions and Armor (tank commander) having served two combat tours, and becoming badly wounded on his second while leading and protecting his troops.  After being medically retired out of the Army in 2008 at the rank of Captain, he continued his education and practiced consulting work for a wide range of organizations, which he continues to do, and in 2012 he started his own company called Project Vanguards LLC.

Sean can be reached at [email protected] and you can view his LinkedIn account at the web-link below, and his company information can be found at http://ProjectVanguards.com

LinkedIn Page:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/sean-m-thomas-85767913/

He can be contacted via email at [email protected]


Editor’s note:  Editor’s note:  This book review was the result of a partnership between the publisher, PM World and the Alamo PMI Chapter in San Antonio, Texas. Authors and publishers provide the books to PM World; books are delivered to the PMI Alamo Chapter, where they are offered free to PMI members to review; book reviews are published in the PM World Journal and PM World Library.  PMI Alamo Chapter members can keep the books as well as claim PDUs for PMP recertification when their reviews are published.   If you are an author or publisher of a project management-related book, and would like the book reviewed through this program, please contact [email protected].