Published: 05/12/2002, Volume112 No. 5834 Page 34 35

Managing Projects in Health and Social Care By Vivien Martin Publisher: Routledge. ISBN: 0415276209, 208 pages,£16.99.

Reviewer Jeanne Hardacre Fellow, Birmingham University health services management centre

This book will look familiar to anyone who has been studying or supporting the management education scheme by the open learning development (MESOL) programme.

Managing in Health and Social Care, co-written by the same author, is a core text for MESOL students and acts as a practical management handbook, covering a wide range of topics.

Included in the earlier text is a chapter on 'planning and managing projects', which provides a quick and readable overview of the subject, together with some useful basic tools and techniques to help the first-time project manager.Whether the topic warrants a separate book is perhaps questionable.

There is no doubt that deeper exploration of some of the stages of managing projects is worthwhile.Managers at all levels are increasingly expected to be skilled and competent in delivering time-limited pieces of work as part of their role.

The challenge for a book like this, however, is to give readers what they need to know - no more, no less - and the risk of devoting almost 800 pages to the subject is overkill.

The style of this text is to explain rather than explore, with an approach typical of skills-based management development books.

The content seems to be aimed at managers with little previous experience of taking responsibility for projects, who want to ensure that they do the job well. In this respect it is thorough, moving methodically from defining a project and preparing the ground through to planning, implementing and evaluating.

Case-study examples illustrate the issues raised and demonstrate some of the techniques used.

However, the book is not an at-a-glance toolkit. The reader will discover many invaluable tips and essential points to help them with their task, but these are unlikely to leap off the page.

While the book helpfully starts with the basics and uses unambiguous language, it tends to over-explain; at times stating the downright obvious.

Uncovering the key points in some of the chapters becomes a task in skim-reading the wordy paragraphs in order to spot the useful sentences.

Though the text is thoughtful, the book seems to forget that most readers will be under pressure to complete projects and unlikely to want lengthy descriptions of every eventuality.

If other topics covered in the original Managing Health and Social Care are developed into editions in their own right, busy managers might welcome a rather more succinct style - perhaps a case of 'write smarter, not harder'?