In the book, Project management: strategic design and implementation, David I. Cleland and Lewis R. Ireland report "a review of the results of projects in antiquity reveals evidence about how several historical projects originated and developed" (p. 4).
1. The first of this type of evidence, known as artifacts, typically came from human workmanship. These could have been structures, tools, weapons, or items of substance of archeological or historical interest. The Great Pyramids and the printing press reflect momentous examples of artifacts.
2. The second type of evidence, cultural strategies, could be found in the arts, beliefs, institutions, or other work from different products, from a certain time period typical of a particular society. The English Magna Carta, the U.S. Emancipation Proclamation, and the U.S. Social Security Program portray examples of this type of evidence.
3. The third types of evidence of ancient projects include literature and documents, publications or project-related documents that described project management during a particular time. Articles, books, or editorials that discuss project management and the details of a project mirror these references (Cleland and Ireland p. 4).
Figure 1 depicts the three types of evidence for historical projects. "The potential for overlapping fields of evidence of projects that provide a framework for assessing the historical events that led to the application of resources to work to create change" (Cleland and Ireland, p. 4). Figure 1 simultaneously illustrates sources of evidence for projects and project management.
Figure 1: Sources of Evidence of Projects/Project Management (adapted from Cleland and Ireland, p. 4).
In the 1950s, project management received recognition as a separate or distinct form of management, a separate entity. "Since the early 1950s, names and labels have been given to the elements of the project management discipline, helping to facilitate its further development as a profession" (Cleland and Ireland, p. 4). Figure 2 shows that previous forms of project management focused on cost, scheduling and technical performance centered on cost, schedule, and technical performance but did not have a formal definition.
Figure 2: Progression from General Management to Project Management (adapted from Cleland and Ireland, p. 4).
The formal definition of project management has grown over the last hundreds of years, evolving from original definitions. "The single term project has an origin that dates back several hundreds of years. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word project was first used in the sixteenth century" (Cleland and Ireland, p. 4). The following list reflects a few examples of definitions from the second edition of the Oxford English Dictionary from the years 1600-1916.
Year 1600: "A projecte, conteyninge the State, Order and Manner of Governments of the University of Cambridge. As it is now to be seen."
Year 1601 Holland Pliny II 335: "Many other plots and projects there doc renaime of his (Parasius') drawing…."
1623 T. Scot Highw: "All our Projects of draining surrounded grounds…."
1863 Geo, Eliot Rhola Proem: "We Florentines were too full of great building projects to carry them all out in stone and marble…"
Year 1916 M.D. Snedden in School and Society 2:420, 1916: "Some of us began using the word 'project' to describe a unit of educative work in which the prominent feature was a form of positive and concrete achievement." (Cleland and Ireland, p. 4).
Even in ancient times, prior to the modern understanding of project management, people worked together creating, designing and building projects. Cleland and Ireland explain that "from the period circa 1950 to the present time, there is a growing abundance of articles, books, papers, and miscellaneous documentation that can be used to build a contemporary model of project management" (p. 5). Although tools and techniques extremely evolved over the past thousands of years to more easily facilitate the build major projects, every project managers, even Noah, one of the earliest project managers, who received his direction from God, has to start from the basics: Direction and planning.
Ancient Techniques and Tools
Even though project management only formally qualified as a discipline 50 years ago, project managers created and built projects thousands of years earlier. Pyramids serve as examples of some of the most ancient projects. B. Michael Aucoin recounts in the book, Right-Brain Project Management: A Complementary Approach, that according to modern estimations, "the Great Pyramid of Egypt took approximately 20 years to build and was staffed with perhaps more than 300,000 workers. Obviously, a project of this magnitude required considerable planning and management" (p. 116). Due to design changes and sometimes lack of materials or tools, project managers had to adapt and/or change many of the ancient projects over time.
The construction of the pyramids in Egypt required the project manager's determination and concentrated efforts. Schmaltz reports that some workers died during the construction of ancient projects due to poorly managed systems. The Pyramids of Egypt depict one prominent example of project management in the earlier times. The Great Pyramid of Giza, constructed n Circa 2560 B.C., measuring 481 feet high, structure is believed to have consumed and used 2 million stone blocks, weighing more than two tons. For a more than 43 centuries, this pyramid was considered as the tallest structure in the world (Ireland). The process of building the pyramids, noted as some of the most accurately structured stone constructions in the world, would not have been possible without proper project management (Coppens).
The colonization of the Americas by European explorers and settlers represents another prominent example of a project requiring adaptation in past times. Individuals working on this particular project had to adapt to a new environment and unfamiliar conditions. Knowledge Management (KM) constitutes another discipline of management practiced in ancient times. In the book, Essentials of knowledge management, Bryan P. Bergeron reports that even in ancient times, "organized business sought a competitive advantage that would allow it to serve customers as efficiently as possible, maximize profits, develop a loyal customer following, and keep the competition at bay, regardless of whether the product is rugs, spices, or semi-conductors" (p. 1). Even 15,000 years ago, managers kept records of pertinent knowledge, not only for their personal and professional reference but also for those in the future.
In Mesopotamia over 5,000 years ago, records such as legal contracts, tax assessments and laws, kept on baked-clay tablets, were sometimes lost. Bergeron explains "the solution was the start of the first institution dedicated to Knowledge Management, the library. In libraries, located in the center of town, the collection of tablets was attended to by professional knowledge managers" (Bergeron, p. 1). As military forces, seeking to secure sensitive information, sometimes raided these libraries, at times, officials only permitted access to the libraries to political and/or religious leaders.
A number of historical projects have significantly influenced and changed the development of cities, countries and individuals throughout the world. Table 1 depicts a number of these projects, project dates as well as project details.
Table 1: Significant Historical Projects (adapted from Cleland and Lewis, p. 13).
Details of Project
Ancient Roman Roads
A planned system of public roads around Rome constructed and maintained by the state. The roads were constructed from different materials layered to provide for durability. The roads ranged in width from 8 to 40 feet with ditches for good drainage.
The First Steam Engine
Were built to pump water from mines. This engine used atmospheric pressure to power the thrust of the piston (by cooling the steam to create a vacuum). Later versions used steam to power the thrust of the piston.
The Coliseum of Rome
The First Century
The Coliseum was constructed to a height of 160 feet and could seat about 50,000 spectators.
The Catacombs of Alexandria Egypt
Second Century A.D.
The graves of a single family. These catacombs, opposite the Great Pyramids of Egypt, are more than 100 feet below ground at their lowest point.
The Dikes of Holland
Began in the Thirteenth Century
The dikes of Holland are a form of water management system that recovers land. The levees and dams retain the water while windmills pump excess water out. This represents recovery and use of more than 160,000 hectares of land. The Siberian Transcontinental Railroad (1891-1905). This railroad was built to link Moscow with Vladivostok in the east -- a distance of some 6000 miles. This commercial link aided in transporting materials in both directions.
The Exploratory Journals of Ponce De Leon
Resulted in the discovery and claiming of Florida and Spain. Ponce de Leon accompanied Columbus on his second voyage to America in 1593 and stayed in the Dominican Republic as its governor.
The Inventions of Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin was a man of science as well as a statesman. He is probably best known for his experiments flying a kite during an electrical storm thus "discovering" electricity. He helped draft the Declaration of Independence, was scientist of international celebrity, with a half-dozen significant inventions to his credit. The lighting rod is considered to be the most notable…