The Development of Modern Project Management

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This subject looks at the origins of modern project management and its evolution into a profession..

Topics included in the Development of Modern Project Management:

- Origins, and trends in, modern project management
- The development of project management credentials
- The evolution of construction management.

Other related sections of the PMKI:

- The history of project controls
- Current project management practice and the PMBOK® Guide
- The evolution of calendars and other supporting concepts 


Origins, and trends in, modern project management

PM History

Projects in one form or another have been undertaken for millennia:

- The ancient Egyptians constructed pyramids some 4500 years ago
- Sun Tzu wrote about planning and strategy 2500 years ago
   (every battle is a project to be first won; then fought)
- Numerous transcontinental railways were constructed during
   the 19th century, and
- Buildings of different sizes and complexity have been erected for
   as long as mankind has occupied permanent settlements.

However, it was only in the latter part of the 20th century people started to talk about ‘project management’. There is an important distinction to be drawn between projects: ‘a temporary endeavour to create a unique product, service or result’ and ‘modern project management’ as it is embodied in the various project management associations around the world. The profession of ‘modern project management’ is a creation of these associations starting in the 1960s. During the next 50 years they developed a generally consistent view of the processes involved in ‘project management’, encoded these views into ‘Bodies of Knowledge’ (BoKs), describe competent behaviours and certified knowledgeable and/or competent ‘Project Managers’. Whilst the underlying philosophies used by modern project management are much older, the key change in this period was the melding of processes, techniques and management philosophies into a body of knowledge (BoK), and the effective dissemination of the ideas of modern project management into the wider community.

The central theme running through the various BoKs was that project management is an integrative process that has at its core, the balancing of the ‘iron triangle’ of time, cost and output. All three facets must be present for a management process to be considered project management. However, as the 21st century progresses, this holistic view of the profession is starting to devolve into a series of discrete sub-disciplines using quite different methodologies and approaches; the consequences of this emerging trend remain to be seen.

During the 1960s and 70s, the catalyst for the spread of discussions on project management and the formation of associations to support these new ideas appears to have been the spread of scheduling, and more importantly professional schedulers. Arguably, the schedulers need for a forum to discuss and develop their new discipline led directly to the formation of the various project management associations. Once founded, it was (and still is) the various project management associations that led the development of a defined and documented ‘project management body of knowledge’. Only after the body of knowledge was formulated, did it become possible to:
- Define project management competencies (see: Competencies & Interpersonal Skills),
- Formally examine project management knowledge (see below), and
- Start the process of creating a true profession of project management
   (see: PM Training & Qualifications).

The three major history papers on this site are:
The Origins of Modern Project Management (below)
The Origins of Modern Management (below), and
A Brief History of Scheduling.

An early summary of these papers is in the article 'A Brief History of Project Management' published in APM Project: Vol 19, Issue 11, June 2007.


PP: The Origins of Modern Project Management. This paper discusses the ways in which management and technological innovations of the 20th century interacted to encourage the establishment of project management tools (particularly scheduling), leading to the formation of PM institutes, which in turn created the profession of modern project management. Assuming the central hypothesis in this paper holds true, that: the spread of scheduling was the genesis of ‘modern project management’ ; then the 50th anniversary of the start of the process that created ‘modern project management’ is the 7th May 2007.

PP: The Origins of Modern Management. This paper discusses the ways in which management theories evolved from the beginning of the 18th century through to the 21st century and how these developments influenced the creation of 'modern project management'.

PP: Trends In Modern Project Management - Past Present & Future. The profession of ‘project management’ is largely a creation of the ‘project management associations’ starting in the 1960. During the first 40+ years, they developed a generally consistent view of the processes involved in ‘modern project management’, encoded these views into ‘Bodies of Knowledge’ (BoKs), describe competent behaviours and certified knowledgeable and/or competent ‘Project Managers’. This paper reviews the roots of project management, briefly looks at the evolution of the discipline into a profession and then attempt to predict where success for project management practitioners will lay in the future as the practice of managing projects devolves into a series of very different approaches.View the PowerPoint presentation.



The development of project management credentials

The PMI Credential Framework & the PMBOK® Guide

PMBOK History

The original Project Management Body of Knowledge (1987) is now available as a PDF file. Converted to PDF by Max Wideman, it's free on request. To see more click through to: This document:

  • Provided a basis for discussing and teaching the subject of project management,
  • Provided the foundation for the first Project Management Professional (PMP) examination,
  • Put the Project Management Institute firmly on the public map for the years to come,
  • Contains the basic principles for planning and running a project in all walks of life.

The 6th edition of the PMBOK® Guide was the last version based on the original concept. The 7th edition,published in 2021 shifted the focus from processes to business outcomes.

Blg: The PMP® Examination is 30 years old. A brief history of the linked development of PMI's PMP examination and the PMBOK® Guide.

Blg: The PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition and its consequences. The evolution of the PMBOK and the PMP exam through to the publication of the 6th Edition in Q3 2017.

Click through for our page focused on current project management credentials.



The evolution of construction management

The evolution of construction and engineering management in the 18th and 19th centuries, was a major influence on the evolution or project controls, including scheduling and cost engineering. For more on the history of these disciplines see: The History of Project Controls.

UK transport projects

PP: The First Canal Projects Until the introduction of efficient steam-powered railways, canals were the driving force behind the industrial revolution.  This paper looks at the development of canals in the UK from Roman times through to the start of the 'canal mania' in the 1790s, and seek to identify where possible the contractual and management processes used in their construction.

Wagonway PP: The First Railway Projects. Transport projects in the United Kingdom predate the industrial revolution by several centuries. This paper will look at the building of some of the earliest railway projects (horse drawn wagonways) to identify where possible the contractual and management processes used in their construction and their influence on the industrial revolution.

DP: The Discovery and Excavation of the Willington Waggonway. An academic paper detailing the archeological excavation of the Willington Waggonway, as well as providing more detail on the construction of the early wagonway network.

Art: Myths and Legends: The Origins of Standard Gauge Railways Standard gauge is used by approximately 55% of the railways world-wide. This article looks into the origin of the standard gauge dimension and the series of coincidences that made 1435mm the 'standard' for railway construction.

Building projects

Blg: Construction project management is a very old profession. The construction of Hwaseong Fortress in Korea that was built between 1794 and 1796.

PP: Project Governance & Control, The Building of the Crystal Palace. This article discusses the governance processes used to oversight the construction of the Crystal Palace in 1851 and is subsequent sale and relocation.

Click through to our page focused on modern construction management.  


Risk Management Plan

Communication Plan

Project Charter Template

Stakeholder Work Sheet

Risk Register

Stakeholder on a Page

Stakeholder Work Sheet

EVM Work Sheet