The Evolution of Modern Project Management

When looking at project management, it is clear that we’ve come a very long way. The way we run projects has changed.
The Evolution of Modern Project Management

The history of project management

Projects are all about change. Pushing business forward. Development of new, more effective project management styles is key for ensuring future project’s success. 

The ability to change is crucial, both for the individual project manager and for the company navigating in an ever changing market. Parallel with the emergence of new discoveries and ideologies, the way we run projects has changed. The way we think has changed. 

When looking at modern project management, it is clear that we’ve come a very long way. Let look back at the evolution of project management to understand what characterizes modern project management.   


The first projects

The first real projects happened thousands of years ago. And we’ll probably never know which of our ancestors first decided to build a house or plough fields. However, the results of notable ancient projects can be seen today including the Great Wall of China and the pyramids. 

At this stage in time, project management can’t really be called management. It was closer to a dictatorship. Management was a loose term. Little attention was paid to the numbers of severe injuries occurring in the process, and presumably zero attention to how motivated the workers were. So long as it was eventually achieved, hopefully in the lifetime of the Pharaoh, King, or Emperor, the project was a success. Things stayed this way for thousands of years. 


The emergence of real project management styles

In terms of the actual development of project management styles and methodologies, things really started changing in the 1900s. Henri Fayol and Henry Gantt created modern project management as we know it by inventing the Gantt chart in the early 1900s. 

This bar chart showed how different activities could overlap and how this affects the project schedule. It’s still used today in many projects when deadlines are of the utmost importance. Arguably, the most important thing about this chart is not the particulars but the idea that there are good and bad ways to manage a project. Finally, with the great results following the implementation of the chart, people started to recognise that project management was crucial to success. 

Project management took another huge leap forward in the 1950s. The US navy changed things by implementing the Program Evaluation Review Technique (PERT) methodology for its Polaris Missile project. PERT involves analysing each task needed to complete a project. Most of the focus is on the time taken to complete each task rather than on the details. It’s still used to give a timescale for projects with a high level of uncertainty. 

While PERT shows the beginning of modern project management techniques by breaking down projects into smaller tasks, it doesn’t consider details. For many projects, the scope is simply too broad. 

In the 1960s, the Waterfall model became popular. It helped put a man on the moon. This project management style is linear, relying on the completion of one stage to move on to the next. The method grew in popularity as computers became more common in all areas of life. The waterfall method works well with engineering and computer science projects that tend to require results from one stage to move on to the next. 

In fact, the digital explosion of computers and the internet pushed project management to become what it is today.


Modern project management

As projects have become more complex, our approach to project management has had to become more flexible. Nowadays, different industries use a different style of project management for a more sophisticated approach. Projects are separated into smaller tasks, each handled individually with a greater focus on culture, flexibility, and reaction to failure. This methodology is called Agile management.

Project management has become more flexible in response to changing demands. Nowadays, it isn’t enough to deliver a project on time and on budget. Many projects have varying degrees of success, are ongoing, or have changing targets. They can involve more than one team and cross several departments. 

As a result, Project Managers has become an officially recognised role. The days of having one unqualified person delegate tasks are over. The world is moving faster, and a project manager has to keep track of all elements of a project. It’s a demanding role. 

Modern project management also places more focus on resources, materials, and equipment. The fast-paced business environment means adequate resource planning is crucial. The linear management methods no longer work as separate elements overlap, and resources are required immediately.


A revolution in project management 

So far, project management has had a few main focuses which have driven different methodologies. Deadlines, budgets, and deliverables have dictated how companies approach a project. But times are changing. 

There is one element that occurs in every single project that most methodologies fail to take into account. People. Project management in its essence involves the management of people. The original Gantt methodology focused on deadlines. Newer waterfall methodologies concentrate on deliverables. Both methods have positives and negatives. But neither has all the answers. 

That’s because neither approach is genuinely flexible. The Half Double methodology is built on the belief  that one size doesn’t fit all situations. Therefore the Half Double methodology is adapted to take an organisation's people, culture, and structures into account. 

The aim of Half Double isn’t to follow a linear path to achieve tasks or meet a deadline. When working with Half Double in a project we like to focus on creating lasting impact, not just short term project success. We tailor the methodology to fit what each project needs. It’s a new way of doing things, but we think it’s the future. 


The future of project management

Many projects end up failing due to inflexible management systems and rigid structures. Most methodologies look for success at the end of a project, like a final goal post. With Half Double, we look to create impact from day one. Half Double puts people, leadership, and communication at the centre with good leadership, flexible methods, and an adaptable approach. 

As projects become more complex, businesses need an approach that works for them. You should decide how to use methodologies to suit your needs, not the methodology dictating how you work. Time has moved on; how you manage projects should be as fast-paced and dynamic as your business. 

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