The principles of project management are timeless. If you took a time machine to ancient Egypt, you’d recognize project managers planning the Great Pyramids. Today PMs are the heartbeat of our complex economy. Success in our world requires precise control over resources and computers offer infinite possibilities.
The Beginnings of Formal PM
Modern project management began in the aftermath of the Unite Sates Civil War. With Southern reconstruction and the Trans-Continental Railroad, industries needed effective tools to manage the resources for massive projects. Managers applied scientific methods in an attempt to forecast costs and timelines. The first big breakthrough came from Henry Gantt. Gantt’s simple charts visualize projects from inception to conclusion. Eleven years after Gantt, Frederic Taylor ‘s The Principles of Scientific Management marked another milestone. Trained as a mechanical engineer, Taylor brought engineering concepts to labor management. Mechanizing labor enabled unskilled workers to accomplish complex tasks.
PERT & CPM: What we learned from the Manhattan Project
In 1950, the Navy’s Special Projects had two massive projects with the Polaris Weapon System and Ballistic Fleet Missile Program. The size and scale of these exposed the limits of Gantt and Taylor. Alongside industry titans, the Navy formalized and improved the techniques employed during the Manhattan Project. This statistical modeling, as illustrated below, became the Project Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT). Designed for large research and development projects, PERT used formulas and displayed projects as networks. DuPont used PERT to create the Critical Path Method (CPM). CPM’s formulas stressed cost instead of time. The adoption of these concepts led to the founding of the Project Management Institute in 1969. The job of PM was now a profession.
Along Came Computers and Nothing Was the Same Again
In the 80’s, DuPont deployed a mainframe to manage projects and everything changed. As computers shrank and internet connectivity expanded, statistical modeling gave way to algorithms. Infinite possibilities meant infinite solutions and the PM software revolution commenced. PMI published the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) in 1996, but by the 2000’s high-speed internet had become widely available. The pace of change made keeping up a full-time job. All the effort to make sure that you employed the latest and best solution reduced the efficiency of computerized management.
Certified Experts Aren’t Enough
Any industry is only as good as its experts. PMI launched the project management professional (PMP) program in 1984. The rigorous demands and difficult testing make PMP the most respected accreditation in the industry. Just to prepare to enroll in the program, a PM must have two and a half to three years practical experience. Companies looking to maximize their resources and produce at the highest level, pay top dollar to hire PMP certified managers. Philosophies like Agile and Scrum have created their own certification programs, but PMP is the foundation they all aspire to emulate. A PMP certification helps you find the right solution for your team, but it’s only a first step. To efficiently sort through options, you need a network of experts. Quick access to peers with practical experience.