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 you as an employee and for your company navigating in an ever changing market. Parallel with the emergence of new discoveries and ideologies, the way we run projects has changed. How we think has changed.
When looking at project management, it is clear that we’ve come a very long way.
The first projects
Of course, 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.
A big jump in style
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.