History Of Project Management

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We hear about “project management” and we even use the processes in our businesses, but where did all this stuff get started, anyway? Well, from the great pyramids of Egypt to modern nautical warfare tactics,  the history of project management extends farther than you might think.

In fact, many scholars consider the Great Pyramid of Giza (2550 BC–that’s over 3000 years ago!) to be the genesis of the classic project management process. The scale to which the pyramids were built and the amazing accuracy of measurement achieved there is still astounding today. Projects of this scale are a testament to great leaders using skilled organization, planning, and effective communication to accomplish a large endeavor. All of these skills form the foundation of  “project management” today.

Historical accounts of effective implementation of PM skills include the pyramids, the coliseum, and even the cathedrals in Europe. But the modern concept of project management, and the current “Project Management Movement”, did not get its’ start until the 1950’s, when the processes and techniques began to be formalized.

One of the men who helped launch this movement is Henry Gantt. He  is called the father of planning and control techniques. He is famous for his use of the Gantt chart as a project management tool. The chart allows project managers to outline the amount of time needed on a project. For example, if a you are breaking a large project up into individual tasks, the Gantt chart can help you determine how long each individual task should take, and in turn, how long the project should take overall.  Using a Gantt chart helps project managers in planning and scheduling projects, but it also helps in monitoring the progress of a larger project.  Read more about Gantt Charts here.

Another great player in the modern development and growth of project management is actually the United States Navy. They developed the PERT tool, which stands for “Program Evaluation and Review Technique. ” The tool was  developed the Navy to schedule and organize their Polaris missile submarine program. The technique used numbered rectangles to indicate specific tasks, and directional arrows to outline the intended sequence of those tasks. It seems almost rudimentary to describe, but brilliance often is, quite obvious. The Critical Path Method (CPM)  is very similar to the PERT tool and was developed around the same time by a non-military group. Read more about PERT and CPM here.

If you’re reading this article and thinking these systematic approaches to large projects are nothing new, then you’re absolutely right. These organized ways of approaching the scheduling and planning of large projects began long before we started assigning fancy names like “Gantt” and “PERT” to these methods. To find out more about the history of Project Management, click here.