The History of Project and
Program Management
e very best place to start in understanding program and project man-
agement is to have a comprehensive knowledge of PMI-based denitions
for project, programs, and the management process used to successfully
achieve objectives. Project management is the foundation of program
management, and program managers will generally be experts in the eld
of project management to ensure that the project managers are following
a consistent and repeatable process.
e PMI states: “A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create
a unique product, service or result” (PMI 2009, 4). It is:
Performed by people;
Constrained by limited resources; and
Planned, executed and controlled.
Managed from a time, scope and quality basis.
Projects and operations dier primarily in that operations are ongoing
and repetitive, while projects are temporary and unique endeavors.
While PMI does a great job describing a project, many in the industry
would describe project management as “the art of creating the illusion
that any outcome is the result of a series of predetermined, deliberate acts
when, in fact, it was dumb luck” (Anonymous). Project management is
best dened as “the application of knowledge, skills, tools, techniques to
project activities to meet project requirements.” (PMI 2009, 6).
Contrary to popular belief, project management is not related to “dumb
luck” nor is it an IT or soware development concept. Project manage-
ment, as it is reected today, really began in the 1950s when businesses
28 • Program Management Leadership
started to focus on the successful delivery of products through better
organization spanning multiple functional areas. ese process eorts
were mainly focused on better communications and integration of pro-
cesses across functional borders.
However, project management can be traced further back, for example,
to the original building of the transcontinental railroad in the early 1870s.
e scope of organizing such a complex eort across the country with lim-
ited communication and thousands of workers needed to be optimized to
facilitate cost-eective measures and time factors. In addition, the man-
ufacturing and assembly of large quantities of raw materials required a
tremendous amount of logistics planning to ensure that workers had the
materials they needed available to them as they built the railroad lines.
If too many materials were shipped to a location, the cost of transport-
ing materials increased as the materials had to be hauled from location to
location. If there were not enough materials, the workers would be delayed
and would have to wait, doing nothing and being paid. e balancing act
between logistics and management was one of the biggest challenges that
managers had faced and required unique management approaches.
As the railroads were being built, Frederick Taylor (18561915), also
known as “the father of scientic management,” began his study of work
processes by leveraging scientic reasoning to work eorts, showing that
labor can be analyzed and improved by decomposing the process to its
elementary parts. Taylor looked at productivity studies in places such
as steel mills. rough the use of scientic reasoning, he optimized the
approaches, applying his tactics to tasks such as shoveling sand and li-
ing and moving parts to determine more ecient and eective processes.
Instead of just increasing the number of hours worked by the mill workers,
Taylor determined ways to optimize eciency and increase productivity
by eliminating overtime and additional stang needs through the opti-
mization of work processes.
During the same time frame, Henry Gantt (18611919) studied the order
of work and the processes that manufacturing facilities followed to increase
eciency in working processes. Gantt focused on the construction of naval
vessels during World War I. By approaching the work process by lever-
aging charts containing task bars and milestone markers, he was able to
provide a better perspective on the sequence, duration, and allocation of
resources. ese charts were so useful to management that they were used
in the original format until the 1990s when links were added to show criti-
cal path methods (CPMs) and the assigned resources, order of events, and
e History of Project and Program Management • 29
sequencing that were necessary for project completion. ese links showed
the precedence and relationships between tasks, facilitating a better under-
standing of resource allocation and enabling managers to visually repre-
sent the tasks, milestones, and deliverables on a calendar basis.
PERT (Program Evaluation Review Technique) charts and the CPM
were introduced aer World War II when the complexities of processes
and competition increased but the demand from wartime decreased.
Managers needed to optimize and increase eciency, delivering on time
Gantt Chart

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