Chapter 1: The Origins of Project Leadership

In this chapter we first discuss the basics of management and then review the two "children" of management that evolved in the latter part of the last century: leadership and project management. As we help the reader understand the basics of these three key disciplines, we will pave the way for discussion of a new approach that is evolving in the twenty-first century: project leadership. Figure 1-1 illustrates this evolution from management to project leadership.

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Figure 1-1: The Evolution of Project Management


The practice of management, defined for many centuries as planning, organizing, directing, and controlling, has existed since early times. Building the Great Wall of China, running the Roman Empire, and preparing armies for battle all required management skills; until the late nineteenth century, however, management was usually viewed as an art that was passed on from generation to generation by oral tradition. In the last hundred years, the science of management has developed. While management was once defined as "the ability work through others", today most definitions are similar to the one offered by Courtland Bouee, in his book Management: "Management is the process of attaining organizational goals by effectively and efficiently planning, organizing, leading and controlling the organization's human, physical, financial and informational resources".[1] This definition is presented graphically in Figure 1-2.

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Figure 1-2: The Elements of Management

These four management activities can be described as:

  • Planning. The process of creating goals and developing ways to achieve them has undergone dramatic changes in recent years as organizations have begun to think of goals and plans at three levels. Strategic planning is set at organizational levels and is usually of long duration. Tactical planning is set by middle managers to support corporate goals, is related to individual departments, and is usually of middle duration, often less than year. Operational planning is set by first-line management, to be achieved in the short run by individuals or departments.

  • Organizing. The traditional method of organizing is by function or division. In recent years the trend has been to organize work by teams and networks with the aim of minimizing levels of decision-making. Organizations are flatter, and line and staff rules are being integrated in new ways.

  • Leading. Today, the whole question of the leader's role in ethical decision-making and responding to a wide variety of stakeholders—not just more senior leaders—is a central question.

  • Controlling. We have moved from a very centralized controlling system to a model whereby every associate is in the quality control business. Continuous improvement is key in all organizations.

All these functions are now being viewed in the context of the organizational mission and values. The development of a statement of purpose or "mission statement", once just assumed to be profit maximization, is now a central and continuous function of management.

Throughout the twentieth century, several schools of management thought developed. These approaches, all of which still play a role, include the classical approach, the human relations movement, management science, systems theory, total quality management, and learning organizations.

The classic approach to management, also called "scientific management", focuses on the processes that workers use and attempts to find the best way to perform a task. We entered the industrial era seeking better (defined as more efficient) ways of doing things. Time and motion studies were the norm. Another aspect of this classical period in management was the evolution of classical organization theory—a school of thought that argued that work should be divided into logical functional areas, with each person having one boss. This led to the concept of bureaucracy, which was viewed as a means of ensuring productivity. The key aspects of bureaucracy (which over the years has taken on a negative connotation) are specialization of labor, formal procedures and rules, impersonal systems, clear hierarchy, and career advancement based on the quantity of productivity.

Many of these principles do not regard employees as human beings making specific contributions and having individual needs and concerns. As the century progressed, the human relations movement began. This movement stated that the path to success was through satisfying workers' basic needs, which would make the workers more productive. Behavioral scientists from a variety of disciplines helped companies understand that workers did indeed have different needs and, as these needs were satisfied, the workers became more productive. Maslow's hierarchy of needs, shown in Figure 1-3, still guides many decision-makers.

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Figure 1-3: Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

As we made progress in the mathematical sciences, the impact of the management science perspective grew. We learned that mathematical models and other statistical techniques could assist managers in making key decisions.

During World War II, several new approaches to management developed that are still called "contemporary management". The development of systems theory taught us that organizations are a set of interrelated parts that should function in a coordinated way to achieve a common goal. This led to a response that not all variables can be controlled and the development of a "contingency view", which states that managers often have to say "it depends" and make different decisions depending upon the particular situation.

The total quality movement began in the 1950s in Japan and did not truly come into vogue in the United States until the 1980s. The best known spokesperson for this movement, W. Edward Deming, developed a list of 14 points that must all be followed to ensure that total quality exists in an organization. Operationally, many managers have distilled the intent of Deming's list to: thoroughly understand all your customers, empower your employees, make decisions based on facts, and continually improve all your work processes.

Today, the concept of learning organizations has taken center stage. This concept implies that organizations are living entities that can learn, grow, and adapt to the environment. The more quickly organizations can change, the more likely it is that they will gain an advantage over their competitors.

Management has changed in many ways in the last hundred years, but all these theories are still practiced in many settings. It was in the last half of the twentieth century that leadership and project management began to evolve from management into separate disciplines.

[1]Courtland Bouee, Management (New York: McGraw Hill, 1993), p. 95.

Project Leadership
Project Leadership
ISBN: 0071388672
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2005
Pages: 106

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