Learn from History
The modern era of project management dates back to the 1950s. However, ancient records describe early efforts at formal project planning and resource management that were applied while building the Great Pyramid of Giza in 2500 BCE. Managers were assigned to oversee the completion of each face of the pyramid, and the Egyptians recognized the value of team building. This is shown by the presence of many beer brewing sites around the construction area.
Management strategies were also in use during construction of the Great Wall of China, which took more than 2,000 years with a labor force of millions. One organizational technique was dividing laborers into three groups: criminals, peasants, and soldiers. Later, the ancient Greeks took the concept of division of labor to the next level. Instead of using a huge force of unskilled workers, the Greeks accomplished their monumental building feats with small teams of highly skilled individuals.
The Greeks also embraced the Master Builder concept, assigning master craftsmen to train groups of skilled stone masons who were then used to plan and lead other projects. The Greeks were true early adopters – as early as the 8th century BCE, they used some of the same ideas and practices we see today at the Google and Apple campuses in Silicon Valley. Project managers supplied music from flutes, drums, and singers to make boring jobs easier to handle and keep people working harder and longer. The free lunch buffets probably featured organic greens, virgin olive oil dressing, pita bread, and Greek yogurt.
The ancient Roman text De Architectura, written by master builder Marcus Vitruvius Pollio around 25 BCE, indicates that skilled labor for large projects was drawn from the ranks of the army, and military-style organizational and management practices were employed. Epic projects like aqueducts, bridges, and temples were carried out by huge labor forces under the direction of master builders and teams of surveyors and managers. Vitruvius described practices that characterize the best modern project managers, noting that a master builder must be trained in building with his own hands and therefore able to engage in and closely monitor every aspect of the project at hand.
Welcome to 21st Century Project Management
Building teams of skilled specialists, keeping a close eye on all phases of the work, and rewarding a job well-done are still essential for successfully pulling off large, complex projects. However, nobody has human resources in the millions to throw at a project, and chiseling every email and text into a stone tablet is not exactly going to build the company’s bottom line.
Fortunately, now there is a better way: project planning software that puts a full set of project management tools at your fingertips. Assign personnel, work up schedules, track time, cost, and progress, produce charts and reports, analyze performance, and stay in close communication with every member of your team from any desktop browser or even a mobile device. In terms of increasing resource utilization, saving time, and making more money, some of the online project planning tool sets out there today could definitely qualify as wonders of the modern world!