Project management may be defined as the ability to effectively manage the activities of a project (Heldman, 2011). According to Chiu (2010), it involves the thoughtful planning of activities to meet the requirements of a project. Also, project management provides a strong foundation for planning, scheduling, resourcing, decision making, and management of all activities associated with a project.
Notably, the science of project management has evolved over the years to allow for effective planning, coordination, and control of complex projects. Ordinarily, a project manager uses his or her expertise and understanding to solve problems to realize his or her goals. The whole idea of project management is to ensure that project activities are completed as expected. Project management also helps project managers to predict problems and dangers associated with running a project. Once the possible dangers and problems have been identified, the project manager can devise mechanisms to address them.
Although the concept of project management as used in the present world was recognized only recently, it has been used for a very long time and originates from different fields including military operations, engineering, and building (Richman, 2011). This notwithstanding, the history of project management may be well explained by understanding how the term project management is used in the contemporary world.
History of Project Management
Debatably, the management of man-made projects is not new. Earlier civilizations characterized by magnificent structures speak volumes about the admirable work done by our forefathers. Even though modern projects are generally managed through the use of complex tools and project management strategies, they are not in any way special than earlier projects. The fundamental principles of project management in all projects are essentially the same.
According to some researchers, project management has developed over the years with changes in knowledge and culture being linked to a given period in the history of mankind (Chiu, 2010). In the same way, skills, knowledge, and project management tools have undergone major transformations. The term project management was not used until the 1950s. This notwithstanding, the idea of project management goes many years back in history. Projects led by different people at different times in history are an indication that the science of project management has been around for so long. The successful completion of these projects is a testimony that an organized group of people worked together to plan and execute the requirements of the projects.
Although not well developed, the ideas held by the leaders of earlier projects helped them to successfully coordinate the activities of different individuals as they worked on projects. The building of Noah’s ark and the historic pyramids established in Egypt, for example, required critical management efforts. Even though the Egyptians did not have sophisticated equipment to do their job, they were able to erect massive structures which continue to attract curious spectators to this day. The technology that was used by the Egyptians to do such a remarkable quality of work remains a mystery to many. Undoubtedly, these enormous structures show that a disciplined project management approach was used to realize construction goals.
Many other examples exist to demonstrate that the science of project management has a long history. While builders in the ancient days used some form of project management approach to get work done, the use of the term project management remained abstract until much later. Consequently, the discipline of project management developed at a very slow pace. According to Chiu (2010), a modern-day approach to project management is not entirely different from the ancient methods used in the management of construction projects. In spite of the increased use of sophisticated project management tools and software in the present setup, the fundamentals of project management have not changed.
Forefathers of Project Management
In the olden days, there was no profession known as project management, and most projects were managed by architects and engineers bearing the title of master builders. Success thus required the use of common sense, hard work, and strength of mind. Typically, managers were experienced individuals who understood the principles behind the design and construction of powerful structures. An investigation into the work done by the architects and engineers later led to a separation of roles and the creation of the position of a project contractor.
Later, Henri Fayol and Henry Gantt emerged as the forefathers of project management (Chiu, 2010). The greatest contribution by Henri Fayol was the specification of five key functions of management. The first and most important function of management is planning. To succeed, a manager must begin by laying out a clear plan that shows what has to be done and how the goals of a project will be realized. Organizing is another function of management and involves the organization of resources needed for the project to run as expected. The resources include employees, finances, and technological as well as natural resources. The other function identified by Fayol is commanding or directing. The project manager needs to understand what has to be done before giving guidelines to his or her team. The next function of management is coordinating. The main purpose of coordinating is to ensure that the various components of a project run smoothly.
Finally, the controlling role of a project manager permits him or her to make sure that everything goes as planned. While Fayol is well recognized for coming up with the five management functions, Gantt created the Gantt chart mostly used in the management of complex projects. Ostensibly, Gantt’s work was an extension of the work done by Fayol. The Gantt chart allows project managers to diagram and controls the activities of a project. Since its invention, the Gantt chart has been used quite extensively as a critical aid to project management. The works of Fayol and Gantt were, however, stimulated by Frederick Winslow Taylor’s theories (Chiu, 2010). By his work, Taylor was able to lead the development of project management practices and thus created a foundation for both Fayol and Gantt.
Reasons for Project Management
The importance of speed, the need for quality work, and the desire to reduce management costs are very critical considerations in any sector of the economy today (Richman, 2011). As a result, the need to manage projects effectively is a major concern in the contemporary world. Generally, project management ensures that managers can successfully control project activities. The tools commonly used for project management help to reduce the time required to complete tasks to desired specifications. The tools also help to manage expenses, improve the quality of products, and raise the profitability of an organization. Effective project management also allows organizations to differentiate their products from those of competitors and to offer exceptional services to customers. It is thus obvious that project management is vital for any organization to succeed.
To successfully implement project management, however, it is necessary for senior management to be involved. Among other things, securing the support of senior management helps to deal with any form of resistance that may result during the implementation process. Ordinarily, senior managers in an organization are expected to provide the time needed to complete a project. They are also responsible for approving funds and authorizing access to any resources needed for a project. Also, the organization must be ready to accept changes, and the project management system must thus be in line with an organization’s culture. This must be accompanied by clear policies and procedures that explain the role and authority of project managers.
Project management is not a new concept. Great designs and structures made by early builders are an obvious pointer to the fact that project management has been with us for ages. Ostensibly, skills, and experience in project management help project managers to run the activities of their projects more efficiently. Through better management of these projects, project managers can effectively control costs, deliver to the expected standards, and meet the required specifications.
Although talented project managers existed a long time ago and successfully managed huge projects, it took too long for the notion of project management to be recognized. Over the years, however, project management has evolved and is today regarded as the best solution for ensuring successful execution of projects from start to the end. Today, both large and small organizations in the contemporary world understand the importance of effective project management.
Chiu, Y. C. (2010). An Introduction to the History of Project Management: From the Earliest Times to A.D. 1900, Part 1900. The Netherlands: Eburon Uitgeverij B.V.
Heldman, K. (2011). Project Management JumpStart. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Richman, L. (2011). Successful Project Management (3rd ed.). New York, NY: AMACOM.