History of Project Management: How Did We Get Here?

Project management in its current form began taking shape several decades ago. During the beginning of the 1960s, industrial and business organizations started see the benefits of organizing work schedules around specific projects. They saw the dire need for communication and integrating tasks across all departments and positions. It was then that the concept of project management gained wide acceptance.

Management principles began to evolve more efficiently beginning in the late nineteenth century, due in large part to the increasing complexity of the business world. In particular, large-scale government projects dominated decision-making, and became known as management decisions. Such endeavors involved thousands of workers and vast bulk quantities of materials, machinery, and equipment.

In the early 20th century, business organizations sought to maximize the results of their combined labor, material and equipment. During this period, one man, Mr. Frederick Taylor, found through his analysis of employee work patterns and behavior that improving the methods of production would yield significantly higher output. Taylor’s analysis of employees’ use of time and the motions required for a particular job resulted in better production methods which reduced labor and material costs. Through this analysis, now referred to as a time and motion study, business found what they needed to maximize productivity and lower production costs. Because of his achievement, Taylor has been given the honorary title as “the father of scientific management.”

When we talk of project management, Henry Gantt cannot be left out. His contribution to this field has been substantial. He studied the order of work operation closely and came up with what is known today as the Gantt chart. It is a great reference for managing projects, especially large ones. The chart gives a complete idea about the interdependence of tasks and the schedules on the chart help in identifying and arresting delays. This is why these charts have been quite popular ever since their introduction in the 1920s.

Evolution of management into a distinctive business study dates back to the period of Taylor Gantt and many others. They revolutionized this concept into a study and discipline subject. Later came the different topics such as marketing approaches, industrial psychology, and human relations that became the backbone of business management. PERT charts and Critical Paths Methods were introduced in the mid 20’s. After understanding the benefits of this subject, military and many other organizations started to adopt these techniques and they continue to apply them to this day.

Today, unlike days past, business can be viewed more as a human organism and less as a machine. Thus, it is implied that for the business to remain “healthy” and prosper, all parts of the whole, need work together toward the same specific goals or projects. Modern interpretations of this general concept prevail in almost all types of business today. Generally, the goal, or project, is managed by the “project manager”. The project manager is the team leader. Their responsibilities are to efficiently assemble and organize a productive team, delegate tasks, manage a budget and ultimately, to optimally complete the project within budget and on time.