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Project Management - A Brief History

Historical background

The 1950s marked the beginning of the modern project management era. Prior to the 1950s, projects were managed on an ad hoc basis using mostly Gantt Charts, or with informal techniques and tools. At that time, two mathematical project scheduling models were developed: 1) the "Program Evaluation and Review Technique", developed by Booz-Allen & Hamilton as part of the United States Navy's Polaris missile submarine program; and 2) the "Critical Path Method" (CPM) developed in a joint venture by both DuPont Corporation and Remington Rand Corporation for managing plant maintenance projects. These mathematical techniques quickly spread into many private enterprises.

As a discipline, Project Management developed from different fields of application including construction, engineering, and defense. In the USA, the forefather of project management is Henry Gantt, called the father of planning and control techniques, who is famously known for his use of the "Gantt" chart as a project management tool. His study of the work and management of Navy ship building is legendary. His work is the forerunner to many modern project management tools.

The Project Management Institute (PMI) was formed in 1969 to serve the interest of the project management industry. The premise of PMI is that the tools and techniques of project management are common even among the widespread application of projects from the software industry to the construction industry. The PMI authorized the development of what has become A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide), containing the standards and guidelines of practice that are widely used throughout the profession.

The International Project Management Association (IPMA), a European group, has undergone a similar development and instituted the IPMA Competence Baseline (ICB). The focus of the ICB also begins with knowledge as a foundation, and adds considerations just about relevant experience, interpersonal skills, and competence. Both organizations are now participating in the development of a ISO project management standard.

Project management is a vast subject. Much too broad to be laid out in one short article. I have listed several good books at the closing of this article or you can visit for more information on Project Management.

Brooks, Fred (1995). The Mythical Man-Month, 20th Anniversary Edition, Adison Wesley. ISBN 0-201-83595-9.

Whitty, S. Jonathan (2005). A Memetic Paradigm of Project Management. International Journal of Project Management, 23 (8) 575-583.

Heerkens, Gary (2001). Project Management (The Briefcase Book Series). McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-07-137952-5.

Berkun, Scott (2005). Art of Project Management. Cambridge, MA: O'Reilly Media. ISBN 0-596-00786-8.

Stephen Nelson is a freelance author that writes for the business community. You can find out more at