This research paper has been prepared with a view to advancing the body of project management knowledge.

Published here December 2003.

Introduction | Why Model? | Early Eighties | Late Eighties
The Nineties | Models in the New Century | Summary


Professor Pinto once observed that

"Project management is a philosophy and technique that enables its practitioners to perform to their maximum potential within the constraints of limited resources, thereby increasing profitability ... With the future bright for expanding the role of project management on a worldwide basis, the only potential clouds on the horizon concern the ability of governments and businesses to use these techniques well. The lack of formal training for many future project managers is worrisome and must be corrected. We must continue our efforts to develop a common skill set and body of knowledge so that these techniques can be used to their maximum potential."[1]

Indeed, to improve the education and training of project management practitioners we need to be sure we understand what project management is, what it does and how it works. While there is significant unanimity on its various parts, the following definitions show that there is by no means unanimity on these issues.

"The art of directing and coordinating human and material resources to achieve stated objectives within the limits of time, budget, and client satisfaction."[2]

"The art of making things happen."[3]

"The planning, monitoring and control of all aspects of a project and the motivation of all those involved in it to achieve the project objectives on time and to specified cost, quality and performance."[4]

"The discipline of managing projects successfully."[5]

"The application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements."[6]

Judging by the number of different thoughts represented here, project management is clearly a complex subject and equally clearly, there are varying opinions as to how project management should be characterized. We might take Peter Senge's advice:

There is something in all of us that loves to put together a puzzle, that loves to see the image of the whole emerge ... Systems thinking is a discipline for seeing wholes. It is a framework for seeing interrelationships, rather than things, for seeing patterns of change rather than static 'snapshots'[7] ... Ultimately, the payoff from integrating systems thinking and mental models will be not only improving our mental models (what we think) but altering our ways of thinking[8] ... [However,] ... in some ways, [organizations] are especially vulnerable because all the individual members look to each other for standards of best practice. It may take someone from 'outside the system', such as foreign competitors, with different mental models, to finally break the spell.[9]"

True to form over the last couple of decades, there have been a number of attempts to clarify this complex subject of project management by means of modeling. By "modeling" I mean here some sort of graphical portrayal, and because this continues to be one of the great-unresolved issues, it is instructive to trace through some of these efforts over the years.


1. Pinto, j. k., Project management: the Future, in chapter 13 of Project management for Business Professionals, A comprehensive guide, edited by Joan Knutson, Wiley, NY, 2001, p586.
2. Wideman, R. M., in lecture notes, 1977.
3. Bibby, J., in presentation material, 1979.
4. British Standard BS6079, 1996.
5. Patel, M.B., & P.W.G. Morris. Centre for Research in the Management of Projects (CRMP), University of Manchester, UK, 1999
6. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (known as "PMBOKČ"), Glossary section, Project Management Institute, PA, 2000
7. Senge, P. M., The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization, Doubleday, NY, 1990, p68.
8. Ibid, p204.
9. Ibid, p400.
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