Based on the latest academic research into project management the book addresses the origins of project management and the general perception that it was initiated and evolved in the 20th century. Yet how were all the great projects of the past delivered, like the Giza Pyramid, the Parthenon, the Colosseum, the Gothic Cathedrals of Europe, and the Taj Mahal. Was project management used? Were the concepts of project management understood?
This ambitious book presents the case that the discipline of project management did not just appear in the last 100 years but has been part of a steady evolution for at least 4,500 years.
The book traces the development of project management by examining the 25 most significant projects through this period, from the ancient world through to the industrial revolutions of the last 300 years. It then comes up with some startling conclusions most notably the method and practices used in the past are little different to those used today.
A close analysis of these projects highlights that supposedly recent management disciplines, only fully defined in 1983 as the nine PMBOK Knowledge Areas (integration, scope, time, cost, quality, human resource, communications, risk and procurement) were actively used in all these projects.
For example, ancient projects (like Giza, or Colosseum) were pushing the limits of technologies in engineering complexity, materials in terms of the heights and stability of the evolving structures, and resources in the ability to organize a vast workforce. The architects/master builders had a comprehensive grasp of the totality of their projects, including all the major activities and the concept of a work breakdown structure, and the nine PMBOK Knowledge Areas.
Experts agree that even with today's technologies we would be pushed today to replicate many of these ancient projects and bring them in the scope, time, and budget these were delivered in. With their technologies we could not even close to match what the ancients project managers achieved. A prime example is Julius Caesar's Bridge over the Rhine River built in an astounding 10 days.
The book uses the latest research and findings on these projects from recent archaeologal work like that of Mark Lehner who uncovered the workers village at Giza. He deduced that the workers were well looked after as he found the excavated bones were mineralized indicating the workers ate meat which was the food of the Egyptian middle classes. This is contrary to the popular view that ancient project workforces were made up of slaves. Similarly, the line of reseach related to Hagia Sophia Cathedral by by Ahmet Çakmak, a professor emeritus in earthquake engineering at Princeton University.
Over time the drivers for projects have included religious, political and commercial factors, and often a mix of these. Many ancient projects were driven by religion for example, construction projects like Giza, Stonehenge, and the Gothic Cathedrals, although the cathedral did improve the commerce in a town. Florence Cathedral was all about prestige and commerce. The Colosseum was political in nature and was used to promote the Roman Government and provide employment. It also stabilized the Roman Empire. The great voyages of exploration were projects driven by commerce but in the name of religion and monarchy.
In the 18/19th century practically all projects in the industrial revolution were commercial in nature like the Iron Bridge, TransAtlantic cable, Crystal Palace, etc. Some projects were very strategic, and political, like the Suez and Panama Canal projects, or the U.S., Canadian or Russian Transcontinental Railway projects but, they were also very important commercial successes as well.
In the 20th century during the depression of the 1930s public works projects emerged to address growth in unemployment like the Hoover Dam and Golden Gate Bridge in the U.S., Autobahns in Germany, Ocean liners (Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth) in the UK, and the Maginot line in France. But these projects were not much different from the Parthenon and Colosseum, 2000 years earlier, which were also major public works projects.
In summary, the book comes up with a startling synopsis that project management is a continuum of practices that stem back 4,500 years. Today's practices are an evolution of those that have existed over four millenia.
The book is available through the publisher MMPUBS: "The History of Project Management Book"
Alternative products: "The History of Project Management Audio and PDF"