Logo Loading

To better capture the history of modern project management, in 2003 Kwak identified four periods of modern project management. The four periods in the history of the modern projects are before 1958, 1958 – 1979, 1980 – 1994, and 1995 to present (Y. H.KWAK, 2003).


Kwak asserts that the origins of modern project management started between the 1900s and 1950s. During that period project management transformed from a Craft system to Human Relations Administration. At that time, better transportation and telecommunication systems allowed for higher mobility and speedy communication. Gantt charts were also developed and in use at that time. It was also during that time that the concept of job specification, which is specifying knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to successfully perform a job. Important projects from that period are Hoover Dam, Interstate Highway and Manhattan project.

Gantt Chartswere first used in Hoover Dam and then in the Interstate Highway projects. The Manhattan Project, on the other hand, was particularly important because many still consider it the beginning of modern project management. The Manhattan Project “exhibited the principles of organization, planning, and direction that influenced the development of standard practices for managing projects.” (Shenhar A., 2007).


In the second period as defined Kwak, there was significant technological advancement. The main theme in the second identified period, between 1958 and 1979 is the application of Management Science. During that period, significant technological advancements took place. One such advancement was the introduction of the first plain paper copier by Xerox. It was also during that time that core project management tools such as PERT and CPM commenced. Another important development during that time was also mandating the use of Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) approach for any future projects bearing the size and scope of Polaris.

On the professional side, the institutionalization process of project management began with the creation of the world’s first project management association, now known as the International Project Management Association (IPMA). Since its development in 1965 IPMA has grown substantially and is now prime international promoter of project management in Europe, Asia, and Arab countries. Four years later, the Project Management Institute (PMI), which is primarily based in the U.S.A, was founded. PMI is widely known as the publisher of The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK). The book is a compilation of processes and knowledge areas generally accepted as the best practice within the project management discipline (ITRM Guideline CPM 110-01, 2006).

Furthermore, the period was rich with important computer technology developments. In the 1970s,computers progressed from mainframe to mini-computers which made computers more affordable. The affordability of the mini-computers subsequently facilitated the emergence of several project management software companies and tools (Azzopardi, 2014). Polaris and Apollo are considered significant projects from that period. It may turn out that [the space program’s] most valuable spin-off of all will be human rather than technological: better knowledge of how to plan, coordinate, and monitor the multitudinous and varied activities of the organizations required to accomplish great social undertakings” (Wolfe,1968).


In the third era, 1980 to 1994, multitasking Personal Computers (PC) made an impact on many aspects of work and business including project management. The efficiency of PCs allowed for developing software capable of handling and organizing complex data required to manage projects. In the 1980s project management programs were mostly based on the Projects Resource Organization Management Planning Technique II (PROMPT II) model of project management, which was later refined into the Projects in Controlled Environments (PRINCE) model (Bizness Académie, 2012).

Another significant development during that time was the Theory of Constraints (TOC), which is a management philosophy introduced by Eliyahu M. Goldratt in his well-known novel “The Goal”. The philosophy is aimed at helping organizations continually achieve their goals using the premise that the rate of goal achievement by a goal-oriented system is limited by at least one constraint (Cox & Goldratt, 1986). In 1986,Scrum, an agile software development model encouraging software development by multiple small teams was developed. Scrum’s approach is a flexible, holistic product development strategy where a development team works as a unit to reach a common goal as opposed to a “traditional, sequential approach” (Nonaka, 1986). In 1987, PMBOK® was published by PMI, the book was mostly based on a white paper called published in 1983 called the “Ethics, Standards, and Accreditation Committee Final Report”.

The guide was an attempt to document and standardize accepted project management and practices. The PMBOK® guide has become the global standard for the industry. In 1994 the Standish Group published the CHAOS report, which is a collection of information on real project failures in Information Technology (IT). The objective of the group is to make the industry more successful by profiling projects and environments against the collected cases and delivering advice based on collective wisdom.


The fourth and final era Kwak presents is 1995 to present (in this instance the present refers to 2003). In this era, technology continues to be a driving force for change and greatly impacts what project managers do. In 1996 PRINCE was upgraded to PRINCE2, and soon after in 1997 an alternative method called the Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM) was introduced. CCPM is a method of planning and managing projects developed by Eliyahu M. Goldratt. It is derived from TOC, and unlike CPM and PERT the method mainly emphasized resources required to complete the project rather than the specific tasks (Goldratt, 1997).
In 1998 both The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) recognized PMBOK® as a standard. In 2001 The Agile Manifesto was written. The Clute Institute Manifesto is founded upon a set of core values that are aimed at enabling software developing teams to perform well as a team.


Article written by Morenike Adeniran


Kwak, Y. H. (2003). Brief History of Project Management. In K. A. Carayannis, The Story of Managing Projects (p. Chapter 2). Quorum Books.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *