Lou Russell has written a definitive, practical guide to applying project management principles to the challenges of learning design and development. Managing Projects: A Practical Guide for Learning Professionals will be particularly helpful for anyone who is responsible for leading a team tasked with eLearning creation.

What’s this book about?

Project management is a critical competency, not only for current assignments, but also for continued growth and increased responsibility. Russell has captured the essential processes, tools, and techniques that are the core disciplines, and she has done a beautiful job of addressing the much more challenging “people skills” that make or break projects.

Who should read this?

Managing Projects is written for anyone whose job requires managing projects, and it will also be valuable for professional, PMP-certified project managers.

What’s in the book?

Lou Russell's aim is not only to save time and money, but to improve the quality of your life. The first half of Managing Projects provides techniques for defining, planning, managing, and reviewing a project. The second half explains how to manage the people side of a project, dealing with change and its impact, reducing stress, and avoiding or eliminating the things that turn status meetings into hours-long ordeals.

This is not a pie-in-the-sky kind of overview book. Lou provides a lifetime of practical advice in her very thorough guide to the process of project management, from definition of the project to review of the results. She offers everything you need, including excellent aids to project planning, such as a way to diagram the scope of a project, worksheets for risk assessment and mitigation, and guides for creating a governance plan. Russell explains the Agile approach to development, particularly for instructional development, as a more practical alternative to traditional “waterfall methodologies.”

She gives sound advice on building a process to communicate early and often, facilitating post-project reviews and managing change, and dealing with stress and conflict. Lou even includes a substantial section that explains how to create dashboards that will communicate project status to organization leaders – this is something that I have never seen in any book on instructional development, and it addresses a huge need as our eLearning projects become more and more strategic.

Throughout the book, Russell provides “stop and think” sidebar exercises to help relate the content of the chapters to the reader’s personal experience. Although this is not a “checklist-y” book, there are multiple checklists and worksheets that you will find yourself using or adapting to your needs. She also rounds out the chapters with “Lou’s Project Management Diary” – true stories and lessons learned from her own professional career.

Who is Lou Russell?

Lou is the CEO of Russell Martin & Associates. She is an executive consultant, a frequent speaker at conferences, including the Learning Solutions Conference & Expo, and the author of six books on instructional design, project management, and leadership.

Russell started her professional life with AT&T in the 1970’s, when big companies had dedicated project managers who led dedicated teams – and those project managers had all the time they needed. As she notes, “times have seriously changed.” Her book reflects the “I need it now” nature of the present day real world, where there is no time for endless process, but instead there is endless need for agility and adaptability as we juggle multiple projects.

The bottom line: you need this book

Lou says, “I believe project management is no longer just for specialists but a required competency for all business workers. Learning project management as a competency is different from project management as a specialty, profession, and full-time job. This book will focus on the competency of project management as opposed to the career.”

What Lou Russell offers in Managing Projects is valuable to anyone who must manage small- to mid-size projects: simple techniques and proven practices that will help them get more done and to be more successful. If that sounds like an outcome you would like, you definitely need this book!

Bibliographic information

Russell, Lou. (April 24, 2012) Managing Projects: A Practical Guide for Learning
. San Francisco: Pfeiffer. ISBN: 978-1-1180-2203-0. 224 pages.

Publisher’s price: $45.00
Amazon: $38.21 (Paperback; pre-order price)
Barnes & Noble: $40.50 (Paperback; pre-order price)