Interview with James R. Snyder, PMI Founder


Interviewed by Petek Kabakci, PMP, PCC

PMI Turkey Chapter

Istanbul, Turkey


Interview with James R. Snyder [1]

PMI Founder, Fellow

Past Executive Director, First President and Chairman of the Board


Interviewed by Petek Kabakci, PMP, PCC

PMI Turkey Chapter

Mr. James R. Snyder is a founder of the Project Management Institute (PMI®), Fellow of the Institute, volunteer executive director for 13 years, first president, and past chair of the Board. He continues to be an active participant in the activities of the Institute. He was been awarded the PMI Person of the Year Award and is an Honorary Life Member of the Institute. He received the 2010 James J. O’Brien Lifetime Achievement Award from the PMI College of Scheduling. Mr. Snyder is a founding member of the PMI Delaware Valley Chapter (DVC), the former PMI Pharmaceuticals Specific Interest Group, and the former PMI College of Scheduling.

As a member of the PMI Global Project Action Team (1999 – 2000), he worked to help structure the Institute to meet the challenges of 2000 and beyond. He served as a member of the Publications Board of the Institute. The James R. Snyder Knowledge and Wisdom Center at PMI Global Operations Center is named in his honor. He has served as a member of the PMI Educational Foundation Board of Directors and in January of 2006 he was recognized as Chairman Emeritus of the Educational Foundation. The PMIEF Student Paper Award is name in his honor.

Mr. Snyder served as PMI’s project manager for the construction of the first PMI World Headquarters in Newtown Square, PA. The building was completed and occupied on schedule and on budget. He was also the project manager for the second office building constructed in mid-2000 and occupied in January 2001. He headed the PMI-DVC project to teach project management to selected Philadelphia and other area high school students. He has developed, and is leading, programs to implement project management programs in K-12 using project learning techniques to teach 21st century skills and project management. Mr. Snyder is now serving as advisor and administrator to the PMI Delaware Valley Chapter. [note 2]

This interview was conducted by Petek Kabakci, PMP, PCC on behalf of the PMI Turkey Chapter for their bi-monthly Newsletter.


Introduction by Mr. Snyder

Thank you very much for the opportunity to share some of my thoughts about project management and the Project Management Institute with you and your readers. As you know, I am not in any way involved in the day-to-day operations of PMI and the ideas and thoughts I am going to share with you are my own personal thoughts about PMI and the profession. Now, let’s look at your questions!

Petek Kabakci (Kabakci):           You are one of the five founders of PMI. In 46 years, PMI has grown to a multinational, interdisciplinary leading organization. What have been the most critical internal and external factors of this success?

James Snyder (Snyder):            It has been an exciting adventure to be part of the dynamic and explosive growth of the project management profession over the last 46 years or so. There is no doubt that the five founders had no idea that the work they undertook in the late 1960’s would result in anything like PMI is today or that we would be part of the establishment of a new profession. We were looking to build a network of managers that could learn from each other about how to manage projects in a radically changing environment.

Many things in the evolution of modern business contributed to the growth of PMI and the project management profession and many, many people have contributed to both the development and evolution of the body of professional project manage knowledge. Countless others made it all work! Without those people we would not have the techniques and processes that are the foundation of modern project management. However, there have been at least three critical factors that I think significantly influenced the growth of PMI from the meeting of seventy plus people in 1969 to a worldwide organization of over 400,000 today.

First, the time was right. For whatever the reasons we were at the right place at the right time. Communications capabilities were starting to increase our ability to share information in new and better ways, Computers were starting to play a significant role in managing projects and the world was undertaking larger and larger, more complicated and interrelated project work. There was a need for better structured approaches to managing the time, cost, and quality of project oriented work. Big “stuff” needed big new tools to get the job done! We were in the position to defined, develop and help disseminate those tools

Second, PMI was founded as a volunteer driven organization. Volunteers founded and operated the organization for much of the first fifteen years. Volunteers remain at the heart of the organization today. It is this personal commitment to the profession and to PMI that has driven the success of PMI. It is the volunteers that bring life and drive to the organization. The PMI vision and mission come from the prospective of people involved in both the profession and the organization. Our members have active and demanding roles in determining the direction of the profession through PMI. They have made it the multinational, interdisciplinary, leading organization that it is today.

Finally, the early association and partnership with the academic world has been a major driver of success. From the very early days of PMI there has been a recognition that academic excellence and practical application must come together to achieve growth and acceptance of the project management profession. This realization lead PMI to such tasks as the development of a guide to project management body of knowledge, the PM Journal, extensive project management standards and many certification programs. This recognition of excellence in managing projects and leadership in knowledge creation has been the backbone of organizational growth.

Kabakci:      How do you envision PMI’s global impact for the next 10 years?

Snyder:        PMI is all about managing change in dynamic environments. The one thing we can say with certainty is that the next ten years will present a changing environment with many new challenges. The fundamental tools of project management are best used to identify and deal with this changing world. I think that there will be an increasing reliance on PM tools in the future. However, we need to return to some of the fundamental concepts of our profession and apply the knowledge we have to the problems of the day. Drifting too far from the fundamental tools of PM can distract us from those things that created the shift to modern project management in the 1960’s and 1970’s. PMI is the organization that will supply the leaders of the future who are best prepared to manage a changing project oriented world,

Kabakci:      How do you see the role of NGO’s in changing the world?

Snyder:        It is time that we recognizing the significant role of NGOs as influential agents of change on a global scale. The Global Journal, in a 2012 special edition, sought to move beyond outdated clichés and narrow conceptions about what an NGO is and does. The article defined their role as being at the forefront of developments shaping the lives of millions of people in every phase of their lives. Their impact on the world is becoming more and more important every day! If you look at the list of the top 100 NGO’s, published by the Global Journal, it is very obvious that the great work of many of these organizations is accomplished one project at a time.


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  1. This interview is republished from the bi-monthly newsletter published by the PMI Turkey Chapter in August 2015 at the request of the PMI Turkey Chapter, Istanbul, Turkey.
  2. James Snyder background summary is from the PMI website – http://www.pmi.org/About-Us/Fellows/James-R-Snyder.aspx.