Five Decades of Modern Project Management


Where It Came From – Where It’s Going

By Russell D. Archibald

Archibald Associates

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

The Origins of Modern Project Management

Modern project management began to emerge five decades ago in 1959 when the US Navy Special Projects Office launched its Program Evaluation and Evaluation Technique (PERT) on a broad scale as a planning, scheduling and reporting requirement for over 100 contractors for the POLARIS Weapon System (submarine-launched solid rocket ICBMs.) At the same time – actually a year or two before, the Critical Path Method (CPM) emerged from the chemical process (DuPont) and construction industries. Both of these project planning and scheduling methodologies began to capitalize on the advances in main-frame electronic data processing hardware and software systems during the 1960s.

Four decades ago this month, project management began to be recognized as a distinct management discipline or ‘profession’ in the USA when on Oct. 9-10 1969 the Project Management Institute (PMI) held its formation meeting at the Georgia Institute of Technology in the USA. Prior to that event, similar large, international congresses had been held by the European based International Project Management Association (IPMA) (then called INTERNET) in 1967 in Vienna, Austria, and in 1969 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

A Brief Chronology

Over these past five decades a few of us have witnessed some remarkable changes, advances, and growth in the practice and application of modern project management concepts, principles, methods, and supporting information systems. A few indicative highlights include:

1959-69         From bar charts to network-based schedules (PERT/CPM)

1959: First Kelly & Walker paper on CPM1 was presented

1959: US Navy required PERT from all POLARIS contractors 2

1960: First ever PERT network was processed on main-frame computer at Aerojet-General Corp. 3

1962: DOD & NASA PERT/COST Systems Design was issued 4

1965: IBM’s PMS-360 dominates PMIS field; punched card input, large stacks of output

1965: CPM in Construction Management: Scheduling by the Critical Path Method was published 5

1967: Network-Based Management Systems (PERT/CPM) was published 6

                        PDM started to take over from CPM

PM was applied beyond Defense/Aerospace and Construction

1969: July 20: Neil Armstrong steps on the moon’s surface

1969: Oct. 9-10: PMI’s first meeting drew 80 people; the first paper presented there was titled “Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling the Efforts of Knowledge Workers.”7

1970-79        First want-ads for Project Managers appeared

1972: IPMA (INTERNET) Stockholm drew 800 people

                       Apple II, Commodore PET, TRS-80, Atari 800 computer

CSCSC attempts to integrate time, cost, quality in defense programs and projects

1976: Managing High-Technology Programs and Projects, was published8

1979: PMI membership: 20,000 (est)


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Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English. Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright. This paper was originally published as a guest editorial in the October 2009 edition of PM World Today.   It is republished here with the author’s permission.



About the Author

pmwj49-Aug2016-Archibald-PHOTO1 RUSS
Russell D. Archibald

Archibald Associates
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico



Now 93, with careers spanning more than 70 years, Russ Archibald has had broad international experiences in piloting and designing aircraft, corporate engineering, operations, and program and project management. His three project management related careers have been Military/Aerospace (19 years), Corporate Engineer & Executive (17 years), and Management Consultant (34 years to date). Russ has consulted to a wide variety of large and small organizations in 16 countries, has trained thousands of people in project management, and has resided in the USA, France, Mexico, Venezuela, Panama Canal Zone, and Peru with Marion, his wife of 70 years. For the past 23 years they have resided in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico.

Russ is founding member number 6 of the Project Management Institute/PMI. After presenting this first PMI paper in 1969 he was President of the PMI Southern California Chapter in 1991-2, founding member of the PMI Mexico City Chapter in 1996, and in 2006 was awarded the PMI Jim O’Brien Lifetime Achievement Award. A PMI Fellow and Certified Project Management Professional, he co-authored with Prof. Dr. Jean-Pierre Debourse the 2011 PMI research report Project Managers as Senior Executives. He was also a founding member in 1970 and is an Honorary Fellow of the Association of Project Management (APM/IPMA-UK).

Russ is co-author with his grandson Shane Archibald of Leading and Managing Innovation-What Every Executive Team Must Know about Project, Program & Portfolio Management (2nd edition CRC Press 2015, 1st edition 2013 also published in Italian, Portuguese and Spanish); author of Managing High Technology Programs and Projects (3rd edition Wiley 2003, also published in Italian, Russian, and Chinese), has contributed chapters to 15 books edited by others, and presented 88 papers at many PMI, IPMA and other conferences in many countries. He holds BS (U. of Missouri 1948) and MS (U. of Texas 1956) degrees in Mechanical Engineering. Russ was awarded an honorary Ph.D. in Strategy, Program, and Project Management from the Ecole Superieure de Commerce de Lille in Lille, France in 2005. See russarchibald.com. Russ can be contacted at [email protected]

To view other works by Russ Archibald, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/russell-d-archibald/