Lost Roots of Project Management: Think Agile that Scales
The Manhattan Project, Atlas, and Polaris projects are cited as roots for traditional phased stage-gate Project Management, but didn't use that model.
Lost Roots : How Project Management Settled on the Phased Approach (and compromised its ability to lead change in modern enterprises)
Sylvain Lenfle and Christoph Loch, 2009/
INSTEAD Research Working Paper
Quoting from Introduction:
“Modern” Project Management is often said to have begun with the Manhattan Project (to develop the nuclear bomb in the 1940s), and PM techniques to have been developed during the ballistic missile projects (Atlas and Polaris) in the 1950s.
This characterization of the roots of PM represents a certain irony – the Manhattan Project did not even remotely correspond to the “standard practice” associated with PM today, and both the Manhattan and the first ballistic missile projects fundamentally violated the phased project life cycle: both applied a combination of trial-and-error and parallel-trials approaches in order to “stretch the envelope”, that is, to achieve outcomes considered impossible at the outset.
However, the Project-Management discipline has now so deeply committed itself to a control-oriented phased approach that the thought of using trial-and-error makes professional managers feel ill at ease.
How could this happen? And does it matter? In this paper we describe how the discipline lost its roots and we argue that it matters a great deal: it has prevented the project management discipline from taking center stage in the increasingly important efforts of organizations to carry out strategic changes and innovation.
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