Where did the concept of project management originate?

the concept of project management in a word cloud

the concept of project management

In a fascinating article Rebekah Peterman talks about the concepts of project management and how it originated.

The piece is interesting as it takes the Wikipedia definition of project management…

“the discipline of initiating, planning, executing, controlling, and closing the work of a team to achieve specific goals and meet specific success criteria. A project is a temporary endeavor designed to produce a unique product, service or result with a defined beginning and end (usually time-constrained, and often constrained by funding or deliverable) undertaken to meet unique goals and objectives, typically to bring about beneficial change or added value.

The temporary nature of projects stands in contrast with business as usual (or operations), which are repetitive, permanent, or semi-permanent functional activities to produce products or services. In practice, the management of these two systems is often quite different, and as such requires the development of distinct technical skills and management strategies.”

…and then expands it to further explain how it became to be defined and who were the prime motivators in establishing the rules and criterion which the profession follows today through organizations like the Project Management Institute (PMI®).

Influences from the past

The recent recognized idea of project management owes a lot to the influence of Henry Gantt, creator of the Gantt Chart, a popular diagram first demonstrated in the 1910s but which is one of the most common methods of tracking a project still used today.  

Henri Fayol’s Five Functions of Management, from 1916, are also considered to be one of the founding principles of project management:

  1. Planning
  2. Organizing
  3. Commanding
  4. Coordinating
  5. Controlling

These five principles are still followed in modern project management but with a slightly more sophisticated methodology. The move towards project management began as businesses and private companies realized the benefits of work being organized around a specific project. Clear methods of managing these projects emerged when the same organizations then realized that coordination and communication at each level, across business units and including different areas of expertise, was crucial to their overall successes.

What is a project?

Approaching each project – described as a “planned set of interrelated tasks to be executed over a fixed period and within certain costs and other limitations” – includes set parameters which do not change. They will nearly always include a clear goal to reach so, by nature, all projects include a start and finish line to accomplish a unique, particular outcome.

A project could then be something which is in addition to the company’s normal business operation – setting up software at a client’s request for example – or it could be changing the way everyday business activity is carried out throughout the company. Projects have a specific aim and a specific timeframe in which to be completed irrespective of the type.

In the Project Management Institute’s PMBOK Guide (Project Management Body of Knowledge Fifth Edition) there are 10 Knowledge Areas which anyone wishing to establish a career in project management should become familiar with. It includes best practices and is the industry standard for all things project management.

Here at Off Peak Training, our methodology for helping people achieve the necessary skills needed to sit, and pass, the Project Management Institute’s Project Management Professional certification exam, works in harmony with the guide using a color recognition system.

Becoming a certified PMP® is a worthwhile exercise for a number of reasons not least the fact that having the credential can boost your salary by as much as 10% over your non-certified peers. Check out our free whitepaper – What Do I Need to Become a PMP?® or read our blog on what we believe are the top 5 fundamental project management skills required to run projects efficiently here.

We also offer a 35 hour online training course which enables you to learn at your own pace and which includes six mock practise exams.

Sign up now for our Project Management Training Course

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