A brief history of Project Management – Part 1

An interesting topic and an equally (un)fair amount of work and data exists on the internet, to highlight the progression in approach, mindset and behavior of us humans, from a project management perspective.

I hence thought this would set the right context for this forum, to start with as the first topic. I will be splitting this topic into multiple parts and this is the first of such parts.

Existing studies (that I could get hold of) indicate that if we take a peek at how project management might have evolved, over the last 3000 years or so, it would probably indicate

a) During the BC era (some 4000 years ago) – being able to “manage” construction of large structural marvels (like the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Great Wall of China etc)

=> On an average, you would expect the team size to range from 10,000 (resources) to 50,000 or more
=> Project schedules would normally run from 10 years up to 20 years

What would you say to such ingenuity, gumption, perseverance and skills displayed by the people (aka team and the PM) in completing such “works”? It was not just brute force / whips alone!

Think about aspects like planning, resource management, communication, change management, risk management etc in a scenario where you would not have access to a PC, Microsoft Office, Telephones, Cubicle, formal processes, air-conditioning, elevators, transportation and pizzas / coke in that order.

Would YOU have delivered such a project? Most likely NO, unless you are one of those rare few Superhero types, and are also ignorant of the law of punishment for failure (or even success) in those times 🙂

These are but standing evidences that project management was in existence then and probably put in better use, considering the massive 3C’s [challenges, constraints and complexities] during that era.

=> Interesting tidbits  

#1:  “The Great Pyramid of Giza stands on the northern edge of the Giza Plateau, located about 10 miles west of Cairo. It is composed of over 2 ½ million blocks of limestone, which weigh from 2 to 70 tons each. Its base covers over 13 acres and its volume is around 90,000,000 cubic feet. You could build 30 Empire State buildings with its masonry” (courtesy: http://www.gizapyramid.com/overview.htm )

#2: “The tombs of supervisors contain inscriptions regarding the organisation of the workforce. There were two crews of approximately 2,000 workers sub-divided into named gangs of 1,000. The gangs were divided into five phyles of 200 which were in turn split into groups of around 20 workers grouped according to their skills, with each group having their own project leader and a specific task” (courtesy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egyptian_pyramid_construction_techniques and  http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/egyptians/pyramid_builders_01.shtml)

#3: “We believe most of the workers were paid in grain and beer, with records suggesting a total wage bill of 111m jugs of beer and 126m loaves of bread. At today’s prices, that would put the cost at around £500m. By comparison, The Shard in London was knocked up for £435m and the Empire State Building in New York finished for $500m”  (courtesy: http://blogramme.com/tag/egypt/)


3 Comments Add yours

  1. There is a huge difference between project management today and project management 4,000 years ago. Namely:

    – Resources were slaves back then while today (in most companies) they’re not.
    – Mega projects were carried out by governments. Nowadays, most mega project are carried out by private/public companies.
    – Project management back then was pure waterfall – nowadays it’s a mixture of everything.


    1. himeshkc says:

      Thanks PM Hut for the feedback. I couldn’t argue with you more. Though this still doesn’t takeaway the shine from the glorious old days (if you get what i say). Kindly check my subsequent posts and final ones to kind of get a overall feel of where am heading to. Appreciate your time.

      cheers, himesh


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.