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History of Project Based Management - Origins & Concepts

Projects have existed for all time, but Project Management has only become recognised as a specific discipline in recent decades. Much focus and progress was achieved in the early sixties, when pioneers, mainly in the United States, developed analytical techniques to model, understand and manage complex projects. These techniques are the origins of what are now known as the ‘first principles’ of Project Management.

In the early days, Project Management was only seen to be relevant to traditional engineering and construction type projects. Today for example, Project Management is employed by every sector of UK commerce (private and public).

What is a Project?

A project is a non-recurring activity, which produces a specific deliverable or outcome, carried out by a number of different parties or functional disciplines from within a single or multiple businesses. Sometimes it is obvious if an endeavor is a project; other times it is less so. The acid test as to whether an activity should be categorised as a project is if it would benefit from being organised, controlled and managed as a project. Why is this question even important? – because we don’t want to apply the method to other aspects of business without valid reason.

What is Project management?

Project Management is a very broad subject; one of its challenges is that it can mean many different things to different people. Project Management has evolved and grown to encompass:

The key role of the Project Manager is a very challenging one. PMIS believes the value and function of the role is only just beginning to be understood by business (and many aspiring project managers!). An experienced and highly competent project manager can make a challenging project a complete success, provided he or she is supported by the Business.

Going forwards, far greater levels of maturity are required in the identification and selection of individuals who clearly have the personal competencies to be a successful project manager, than are currently employed within most organisations. Improved methods of discerning real project managers from ‘others’ are fundamental to project success.

What Are the Primary Benefits of using this approach?

Projects by their very nature are very often challenging, as they carry significant uncertainty, and typically they do not have luxury of mature processes and inter-personal relationships, that you might find in steady state operations, to facilitate their “delivery”.

The main benefits of the project approach are to provide:

  • single point responsibility for the management of the project ( not a committee )
  • a structured process to plan, communicate and manage the delivery of projects
  • visibility of delivery ‘peformance’ leading to effective project control, thereby improving the probability of successful delivery of projects and their planned benefits.

In summary, fundamental project management principles and concepts are all based on developing a more delivery focused approach to the planning, communication and control of a project. Something that evidence shows does not always emerge naturally among us humans!

Why are so many Organisations Using ‘Management by Project’?

Most organisations have significant elements of their business that fit the ‘Management by project’ model. Having a more effective delivery focus, and better mechanisms to manage the delivery of projects, is increasingly important to Customers, Sponsors and Stakeholders.

In short, all organisations are recognising that great products alone will not succeed – delivery matters more today than ever before. Project management focuses on improving delivery of products and services to customers.

How Mature is PM Today?

It should be no surprise that Project Management is not yet embedded in the culture of most businesses, even where it has been employed for a period of time. Project Management has existed for a few decades, against perhaps centuries for other technical and management disciplines.

A common challenge to project management is that many senior people in firms did not employ this approach in their earlier careers, and do not relate to the method. Where this is so, strategies need to be adopted to demonstrate the benefits. PMIS can help you with this challenge.

Simple ways to measure the maturity of Project Management in a business are:

  • the degree to which people in a business practice what’s in their own procedures
  • the degree to which the fundamentals of Project Management are understood by all those with managerial responsibility in a project
  • the maturity of methods to select and develop project managers
  • the methods to define and select projects in their early stages
  • the degree to which senior management support and encourage sound project management practices
  • the way Governance is applied by the organisation to projects.

So, Project Management has real promise, but it still has a long way to go!

Executive Presentation:

PMIS has an Executive Overview of the Benefits of Project Management and would be happy to work with you to deliver this to your organisation. Email today to find out more on implementing or improving Project Based Management.

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