This article was originally published in the June 1985 issue of the Project Management Journal. Except for the postscript that I have added, it has been modified only to the extent necessary to make it suitable for web publication.

The assistance of Susan Gallagher, Eric Jenett, Jim Snyder and others in the preparation of this article is gratefully acknowledged.

Published here March 2001.

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Of course the problems of managing projects have been around for a long time. Some of them must have been encountered in the building of the first stone building of any size to be found in the world. The pyramid at Saqqara in Egypt was commissioned by King Zoser of the third dynasty. While King Zoser was the sponsor of the project, apparently the person responsible was his minister, Imhotep.

As L. Sprague de Camp writes in his book The Ancient Engineers:

"Although no trustworthy details of the of Zoser and Imhotep have come down, we can be sure that they were able men who worked long and effectively together, Probably lmhotep was a universal genius like Archimedes and Leonardo da Vinci. Such was his repute as a physician, architect, writer, wizard, statesman, and all round sage that in later times collections of wise sayings circulated under his name."

Unquestionably, these two gentlemen must have learned a great deal about managing projects. While engineering technology flourished through the centuries at an ever accelerating rate, it was not really until the turn of the century that management became the subject of more serious study and then only in the context of an ongoing enterprise.

In its report on Post War National Development approved for publication in 1944, the Institution of Civil Engineers of Great Britain recognized the need for a systematic approach to planning public works projects when it pointed out rather quaintly that:

"In order to carry out work efficiently, it is essential that a scheme of operations be first decided by those directly responsible for the execution … With such planning the work can be broken, down into a series of operations and an orderly sequence or programme of execution evolved … Without a Programme the execution can only be haphazard and disorderly … The drawing up of a Programme at the beginning of the work does not mean, of course, that it is drawn up once and for all and cannot be changed. The exact reverse is the case …"


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