Second Order Project Management


Book Title: Second Order Project Management

Author: Michael Cavanagh

Publisher: Gower

List Price: $49.95 USD

Format: Soft cover; 128 pages

Publication Date: 2012

ISBN: 9781409410942

Reviewer:      Michael O’Connor

Review Date:              February 2012


Introduction to the Book

This is an easy read. In a night, a plane ride or a train ride you will complete this book.  The idea of why projects are so complex is broken down into the author’s ideas, and he suggests what drivers make up the project’s complexity.

The author is very passionate about project management and making projects less complex.  He also tried to inject some tools and tactics around systems thinking into the book.

Overview of Book’s Structure

The book is a fairly short read at just over 100 pages long and in a soft paperback or e-read format.  It is broken down into two main parts.  Part 1 is on uncertainty, complexity and impact on projects.  The second part is about second order tools and tactics.  There is an appendix, cited references, suggestions for further reading and, of course, an index.

The author has a great knowledge of projects, and this reflects on the book’s structure.  It is also the author’s intent to try and get the word out to general management about how frustrating it is to get approval for the project investment when many of them do not have the time or background to make an informed decision.  In fact he would like to see the board and other members get a copy to read and for all to learn from this book.  Or even better yet read it out loud to board members.

Highlights: What I liked!

I liked the practical views / examples of the author as well as his ability to take a difficult subject and tackle it in this short book.  I believe this type of book has a larger topic to describe.  It is broken up into some good points and suggestions for current project managers and inspiring project managers.

The other area that I like is the systems thinking and modeling part.  I also believe that project management is a system thinking level in which we need to be able to consider possible solutions.  As the author points out there are many moving pieces in system level thinking and it depends on the project scope, depth and other factors to determine the application of the system.


To read entire Book Review (click here)

About the Reviewer

Michael O’Connor

Michael O’Connor is a Senior Engineering Program Manager in Research and Development at Medtronic with over (20) years of experience in the medical device field.  He has developed many medical products from conception to commercialization.  He is currently a PhD candidate in the Project Management Program, A. James Clark School of Engineering, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, USA.

Editor’s note:  This book review is the result of cooperation between publishers, PM World and the Project Management Center For Excellence at the University of Maryland (www.pm.umd.edu) in the United States.  Publishers provide books to PM World, books are delivered to the university where they are given to graduate students or alumni for review.  Each reviewer provides a book review in a standard format; the reviews are then published in the PM World Journal and PM World Library.  Since reviewers are generally mid-career professionals, they represent the intended audience for most PM books.  If you are an author or publisher of a book related to program or project management, and would like the book reviewed through this program, please contact [email protected]