HISTORY Project management has been practiced for thousands of years since the Egyptian era. Men undertook projects too large for a single craftsman, even with the help of his sons and apprentices. These projects called for the work of hundreds or even thousands of men, organized and directed towards a common goal. It has been about a half of a century later that organizations start applying systematic project management tools and techniques to complex projects. Frederick Taylor (1856-1915) applied scientific reasoning to work by showing that labor can be analyzed and improved by focusing on its elementary parts. He applied his thinking to tasks found in steel mills, such as shoveling sand and lifting and moving parts.
Before then, the only way to improve productivity was to demand longer hours from workers. After Taylor's death, his associate, Henry Gantt (1861-1919) continued his studies in great detail. His studies of management focused on Navy ship construction during WWI. His Gantt chars complete with task bars and milestone markers outline the sequence and duration of all tasks in process.
Milestones mark significant events in the life of a project, usually critical activities which must be achieved on time to avoid delay in the project. A Gantt chart is a horizontal bar or line chart which will commonly include the following features: fae Activities identified on the left hand side; fae Time scale is drawn on the top (or bottom) of the chart; fae A horizontal open oblong or a line is drawn against each activity indicating estimated duration; fae Dependencies between activities are shown; fae At a review point the oblongs are shaded to represent the actual time spent (an alternative is to represent actual and estimated by 2 separate lines); fae A vertical cursor (such as a transparent ruler) placed at the review point makes it possible to establish activities, which are behind or ahead of schedule. Gantt chart diagrams proved to be such a powerful analytical tool for managers that they remained virtually unchanged for nearly a hundred years. It wasn! |t until the early 1990's that link lines were added to these task bars depicting more precise dependencies between tasks. After WWII, the complexities of projects and a shrinking wartime labor supply demanded new organizational structures. During the 1950's The Special Projects Office of the US Navy developed a technique for evaluating the performance of large development projects, which became know as PERT- project Evaluation and Review Technique.
These techniques gave managers greater control over massively engineered and extremely complex projects. Other variations of the same approach are known as the critical path method (CPM) or critical path analysis (CPA). PERT charts depict task duration, and dependency information. Each chart starts with an initiation node from which the first task, or tasks, originates. PERT charts and Gantt charts are often used in project management.
WHERE CAN IT BE APPLIED? Good project management is vital for large capital projects. These projects can span several years form conception to completion, can cost hundreds of millions of dollars and be constrained by the availability of skilled tradesmen. The most important goal of project management is to define a goal. It's very difficult to know when a job is complete if the final goal is not clear.
Once a project goal has been set, the activities needed have to be defined. On very large projects these activities are broken down hierarchically in what is referred to as a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS).