We Can and Should Raise the Standards


By Martin Barnes, President

Association for Project Management, UK

Oxfordshire, UK

I first attended an IPMA congress in Stockholm in 1972 and have been to nearly all of them since. I always find them interesting, educational, stimulating and just very good fun. And I have made so many good friends from around the world at IPMA congresses.

In 1972 the phrase ‘project management’ was hardly known and the applied science of project management had yet to be developed. After forty years, it is now well known, widely used and a great step forward in the competence of the human race to manage its activities and undertakings. But it is still developing and has further to develop into new activities and undertakings and meeting higher standards of achievement.

I hope and expect that it always will develop and improve, just like every other profession should.

We must be careful, therefore, in developing standards for our profession, that we do not restrain continuing development. Why would we say ‘this is the right way to do this’ if next year somebody is likely to come up with a better way?

In project management, the best way to do it now is much better than the best way twenty years ago. And in twenty years time it will be better than it is now. In 2012, which of us would be happy to be in the care of a medical doctor who knows nothing of new medicines and treatments brought into use in the last twenty years? Standards have improved. Standards should always improve.

I think there are two types of standard. There are standard ways of doing something and there are standards of achievement which people try to reach in doing something. We might ask a project manager which standard way of doing cost control he or she used on a project. The answer might be ‘Prince2’. We might ask the same project manager what standard of cost control he or she achieved. The answer might be ‘a very high standard – we finished just within the budget without using the contingency despite the budget being tight and having had a lot of unexpected problems along the way.’

So the first type of standard is a standard way of doing something and the second is the standard of success you achieve.


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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. This paper was originally presented at the 26th IPMA World Congress, Greece, published in the Congress Proceedings and video recorded (http://pmgreece.gr/video.pdf).  Paper  republished here with permission of the author and PM Greece, organizers of the 26th IPMA World Congress

About the Author

martin-barnes-bioflag-ukMARTIN BARNES, PhD

Founder, Fellow, Former Chair and President, APM

Fellow, Royal Academy of Engineering

Oxfordshire, UK

Dr. Martin Barnes, PhD, was President of the Association for Project Management (APM), the professional body for project managers in the UK, until the end of October 2012. He was a founding member (no. 10) of APM in 1972 and has been an active APM leader since that time. He was APM Chair in the 1980s and was named an APM Fellow in 1995.  Martin has a civil engineering degree from the University of London and a PhD from the University of Manchester, UK. His doctorate was awarded in 1971 for research into improved methods of financial control for engineering projects. Martin Barnes invented the classic Time/Cost/Quality triangle and other project management techniques over the years. He built up his own PM business over 15 years until it merged with what is now PricewaterhouseCoopers in 1985. Now a consultant in project management, Martin was also Executive Director of the Major Projects Association (MPA) for nine years until 2006. Dr Barnes has advised on significant projects in many countries in Europe, Asia and Africa, for the World Bank, other funding agencies, governments, promoters and major contractors. He has worked on projects in the engineering, defense, aerospace, IT, financial, business change and media sectors. Martin’s BBC television programme on project management has been used as a training aid in many countries. He has acted as expert witness in a number of arbitrations concerning major projects.  Martin led the team that produced the New Engineering Contract (NEC), a system of contracts designed to facilitate and stimulate the use of modern project management across all the contributors on a project. The NEC is now being used in over 20 countries and has been adopted by the UK government for all publicly funded construction projects. Martin Barnes has been active in the IPMA since 1972, having attended all but one of its world congresses since that year.  He presented papers at most of them. He is a Fellow of IPMA and a former board member and  Chairman of its Council of Representatives. Dr Barnes is a recipient of the Chartered Institute of Management’s Special Award and of the Institution of Civil Engineers’ Watson Medal in the UK, both for his personal contributions to the development of project management. He is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, the UK’s highest engineering recognition, and is a Churchill Fellow.  Martin Barnes lives near Oxford and can be contacted at [email protected].