So What is Project Management?
In short: Project management is part art and part science in the practice of delivering projects successfully.
The term "project management" emerged in the second half of the 20th century, mostly after the Second World War. Prior to then, projects were managed on an ad hoc basis, mostly using informal techniques and tools. The unprecedented period of abundant reconstruction projects in the post‑war period required the organization of vast quantities of resources to achieve objectives by established deadlines. Governments started to request companies to be more precise on their plan and cost estimates. All these megaprojects required a comprehensive approach, beyond following intuitive processes.
Henry Gantt (18611919) is considered one of the founding fathers of modern project management. He created the scheduling diagram known as the Gantt chart, used to visualize the key steps of a project on a timeline. It was used in some of the most iconic infrastructure projects in the 1930s, like the Hoover Dam and the Manhattan projects. Today, it has become an essential part of every project manager's toolkit.
After the second world war organizations started to apply methodical approaches, tools and techniques to better control and plan complex projects. The US Navy and some consulting firms, like Booz Allen Hamilton, were some of the first contributors in developing the modern project management in which it started to be seen as a discipline different from engineering or architecture.
The big focus in those early years of project management was about accuracy of estimations and planning (scheduling). Two of the most important advances were formulas around these areas. The first one was the program evaluation and review technique (PERT), developed by Booz Allen Hamilton, used for advance estimation. The second was "critical path method" created by two corporations, DuPont and the Remington Rand, to improve the planning and controlling of their projects.
This strong focus on the inputs planning, estimation, cost, time, scope, risk management of projects remained the essence of modern project management until our times. The outputs concepts such as purpose, rationale, value, benefits, impact, strategy and customers were not part of the initial definitions of project management. This oversight is one of the main reasons why the discipline of project management grew apart from the mainstream management, leadership and strategic themes that dictated the CEO agenda over the past 30 years.
13. A Brief History of Project Management (Project Smart), last modified 2 January 2010, https://www.projectsmart.co.uk/brief-history-of-project-management.php.