Project Management as Change Agent

Project Management as Change Agent

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2371-0.ch002
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Historical Development Of Modern Project Management

Project and project management have long existed. Projects like the Great Pyramids of Egypt (circa 2700 to 2500 B.C.) and the Great Wall of China (221 B.C. to A.D. 1644) were resourced, planned, and executed more than a thousand years ago. These massive projects reflected the needs of the society during those times. For example, the Great Wall of China was designed and constructed for the purpose of safeguarding people against attacks from outsiders. It seems obvious, but it was a great project to protect people of the time. Another example of a society-driven project is the construction of the transcontinental railway network. At the time, when there was a need in the society to move people and goods across America, railroad projects were a great necessity. Building a railway from coast to coast revolutionized the settlement and economy of the American East and West, exerting economic, environmental, and social impacts on the society. Cleland and Ireland (2006) suggest that for centuries, project management has been used to “create change or deal with change” in societies (pp. 1-4).

Management as a school of thought began around 1900, and continued into 1920. It focused on performing work efficiently through scientific, bureaucratic, and administrative management. Scientific management focuses on finding one best way to do a job; bureaucratic management relies on organizational structures, rules and procedures, hierarchy, and a clear division of labor to execute work; and administrative management emphasizes information flow in daily operations. With increasing technical complexity, and other requirements for managing projects of large scale, came the establishment and evolution of the matrix organizational structure. One example is the McDonnell Aircraft Company of St. Louis in the 1950s (Bugos, 1993), which changed from a multidivisional structure in the 1920s, with organizational capabilities grouped according to functions into a matrix structure. The flow of work and responsibility within the organization was arranged across the hierarchies of each department and program teams. Within the matrix organization, departments serve as repositories for expertise in such areas as manufacturing methods, purchasing, testing, and quality control, to support the program teams. The matrix organization rationalized both the flow of technical information within the organization and the accumulation of resources and capabilities in “an age of massive engineering” (Bugos, 1993, p. 214). All became important traits of modern project management to come.

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