Project Management

What 50 Years of Project Management Have Taught Us

In 50 years, individuals can learn a lot. And in that same span of time, an entire profession can come of age. What lessons would the field of project management teach us? That is what Alexandra Levit for Business 2 Community sets out to reveal. This is project management distilled to its most insightful kernels of wisdom as it has evolved over the decades.

Scientific PM-ology

The wisdom here is supplied scientifically, courtesy of the International Journal of Project Management:

When Pollack and Adler set out to examine the evolution of project management, they knew that a standard literature review wouldn’t do. They wanted to check out everything, so they sourced 94,472 unique records of PM research (published between 1962 and 2012) from the Scopus and ISI Web of Science databases.

1990s Onward – Technical to Holistic

The research itself moved from the technical to the holistic, from the minutia of practice to the broader strategies of the organization. A new interpersonal dimension took precedence, with key words like “knowledge management,” “environmental issues,” and “innovation” becoming popular search terms. This research all points to one very important concept – context.

Education and Finance in the Early 2000s

From 1999 to 2005, the word “education” became a popular search term along with the rise of professionalism, certifications, and university education in project management. This was also a time of interest in things like “cost” and “contract management,” two terms that are closely associated with the construction industry.

Late 2000s to Now – Systems and Decision-Making

Then the recession hit, and it was all about “new product development” and “innovation.” The shift from technical to holistic comes full swing at this point, with a focus on the impact that individual project managers can have and on their decision-making processes.

Suffice it to say, the profession was in some ways “reborn” in the new millennium. We can see from the research that the popularity of project management is both a symptom of shifting business landscapes where technology becomes embedded in common business practice, but also a tool for further agility and disruption where development becomes more rapid, focused, and incremental.

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