The History of Project Management

As a general concept, project management has a long history. To the extent that human civilization consists of people coming together in organized groups to work with one another, it can be said that project management is as old as civilization itself. In more recent times, it has developed into a specialized field, as techniques for planning and implementing ventures have become more sophisticated and complicated.

Early History (Ancient Times to the Nineteenth Century)

As ancient social units settled down into urbanized civilizations dependent on trade and the specialization of labor, planning must have become ever more intricate. Some ancient cultures left works that stand to this day, such as the Pyramids of Egypt or the Great Wall of China, and records tell us that these projects were carried out according to well thought-out plans that required the skillful management of time and resources. Works of construction, cities, businesses, and other tasks that required such early forms of project management continued through the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period.

Project management in these early times was considered a secondary field, and engineers and architects were often expected to double as the coordinators of the projects they designed. The dawn of the Industrial Revolution, and the resulting increase in the complexity and diversity of projects, meant that project management became more difficult. In response to this need, new ideas of project management began to appear around the year 1900.

Recent History

Two figures of the early twentieth century stand out as the fathers of project management as we know it today. The first was the American engineer Henry Gantt, who in 1910 helped to revolutionize management when he created the Gantt chart, which establishes a schedule for a project and records how work is progressing according to that schedule. Gantt charts are still used in project management today.

The second was Henri Fayol, a French mining engineer whose work in directing one of France’s most important mining operations led him to create a complete theory of project management known as “Fayolism.” Fayol identified the core functions and principles of management. Like Gantt’s charts, Fayolism is still considered relevant to project management today.

In the post-World War II era, project management continued to grow, based on the foundation laid by pioneers such as Gantt and Fayol. The founding of organizations such as the International Project Management Association and the Project Management Institute demonstrated that project management had come into its own as a field of expertise in its own right.

Today, project management continues to evolve. With the advent of computers, a powerful new tool for planning, directing, and coordinating complex projects became available, and soon many different kinds of project management software appeared. Such software comes with various features to help users accomplish projects in a more efficient way than ever.