Project Management Knowledge

The History of Project Management


The pyramids. Built thousands of years ago. Huge buildings. In some cases, with very complex structures inside. How likely is it that these masterpieces were built without planning? Obviously, there must have been some planning to create the pyramids. Master builders were responsible for the completion of a pyramid, and a lot depended on being successful. Most probably their life. While we don’t know exactly how they planned, we can assume that they most likely did not call it project management, though. The notion of a “project” did not exist at that time.

The term “project” entered the English language with a different meaning than it carries today. In the beginning, a project was a plan, derived from a Greek word that meant “before the action”. Only later, a project was not only about “planning the work”, but also about “working the plan”.

Project Management as we know it today was formed in the 1950s. A few decades earlier, in the 1910a, the Gantt chart was invented by Henry Gantt. As a management consultant, he needed a system that would easily show what parts of a production are currently being built. Similar systems had been invented earlier, but Gantt’s charts showed dependencies whereas most other systems had not. Gantt Charts became augmented by the Critical Path Method, and project management was more and more regarded as a distinct discipline. The PERT technique followed a few years later.

In the 1950s, the American Association of Cost Engineers was built by early project managers, although they did not call themselves like that. This association did not only focus on costs but on the overall process of planning and scheduling. The first association with the term project management in its name came to birth in Vienna in 1965, the International Project Management Association. In 1969, the Project Management Institute was initiated in the US.


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