Review of Kerzner's "Using the Project Management Maturity Model: Strategic Planning for Project Management" / by John Schlichter

by John Schlichter

A couple years ago, an editor at John Wiley & Sons enrolled me to provide written feedback for a potential new edition of Using the Project Management Maturity Model: Strategic Planning for Project Management by Harold Kerzner.

Maturity Model

I am not sure, but I do not think they moved forward with a third edition after my critique.

Here are the questions they sent me and the answers I provided.

Reviewer Questions

1.      Does the material in the current edition seem to cover the major topics considered important in the field?  Do any subjects appear to be too lightly covered?

No, the book does not seem to cover the major topics considered important in the field. Kerzner’s maturity model does not make sense. It is a 5 stage model. Stages one through three are essentially “standardization,” but he decomposes this as “common language” (level 1), “common process” (level 2), and “singular methodology” (level 3). Then he jumps to “benchmarking” (level 4), followed by “continuous improvement” (level 5). Historically, many maturity models have taken the 5-level approach, but this is typically a decomposition of statistical process control into “levels” or agendas. Statistical process control results in process capabilities. For this to occur, processes must be standardized (levels 1 through 3 in Kerzner), and then they must be measured, i.e. metrics unique to critical characteristics of processes must be collected and analyzed, and these critical characteristics may differ by organization depending on what is strategic to the organization. This is followed by implementation of control systems, then followed by continuous improvement once processes are “in control.” Kerzner’s model conflates measurement with “benchmarking” and then skips the control agenda entirely, leaping to continuous improvement. Benchmarking in this context does not address process capability, i.e. Cpk. Indeed, there is no reason why benchmarking itself should not occur much earlier in the model (as companies can learn much from each other pertaining to standardization). In short, the model is arbitrary, does not include aspects essential to development of process capabilities, and suggests an order to practices in a sequence that is questionable.

2.      Which chapters would be most valuable to you? Least valuable?

The case studies seem least valuable. This is due primarily to two issues: 1) the cases are not clearly tied to implementation of the maturity model, and 2) the underlying maturity model itself is flawed.

3.      Is the sequence of chapters appropriate?  Should any chapters be deleted or combined in a revised edition?

The sequence makes sense, but there are many flaws and gaps.

The author claims there is a direct correlation between project management competency and a company’s stock price.  This is a bold claim, but is not supported by any evidence.

The author repeats that there is a need for “strategic planning for project management.” However, it is not clear what the author means. Does this mean that a company’s strategic plans need to be translated into projects? By contrast, does this mean one needs to plan strategically how project management will be developed as a competency? The author transitions unclearly between these two related but distinct points.

The author states “strategic planning for project management is the development of a standard methodology for project management.” This makes no sense. Strategic planning is development of a project management methodology?

4.      Please comment on the Best Practices portion of the book. Does it need updating?

Yes. See the answer to question #1 above.

5.      Please comment on the case studies. Are they useful? Can they be applied across industries? What industries would you like to see represented in a revised edition?

No. See the answer to question #2 above.

6.      From the material available, what appear to be the major strengths of this book? Do you have any reservations about the proposed material?

The book’s flaws overshadow the material as a whole. Yes, I have significant reservations, per the answers provided above. In addition to those reservations, the following are some minor points:

  • The concept of maturity is not defined clearly in the book.
  • Nortel may not be the best example to give to describe an organization that is implementing the model. It is said that Nortel was at stage one (lowest maturity), and as we know, they filed for bankruptcy.
  • In chapter one, the author claims that historically speaking, executives resisted viewing project management as a core competency because doing so required decentralization. This claim is unsupported.

7.      Are you familiar with other books on this topic? Which appear to be most similar, and therefore, most competitive with this proposed volume?  Do any of them provide anything that this proposal could, but does not?

PMI’s OPM3 is the leading book on this topic. In terms of things it provides which Kerzner’s does not, see the following:

8.      Please comment on the audience for this book. Do you think a new edition will be widely accepted by academics? Does it have a place with practicing professionals?

I do not think a new edition will be widely accepted by academics. There may be a small audience among practicing professionals, as Kerzner’s name is known and respected within PMI.

9.      For what courses have you used this book/would this book be suitable?

Course Name

Course Type (core or elective)

Course Level (Freshman, Sophomore, etc)

Size of Class

          N/A

10.    What sort of electronic ancillary products (web-based instructor’s manuals, test banks, lecture slides) would you expect to accompany this book when published?

If Kerzner is going to claim that there is a correlation between project management maturity and stock price, I would expect him to back this up with data.

11.    Would you adopt this title for any courses you teach? (Hypothetical)

No, I would not.

12.    If published, what would be a fair price for this work, based on the price of comparable books currently available?

I do not know.

12.    Are there any thought leaders on this topic to whom you are paying attention?

"Like John Schlichter?" he said with a wink.