The Entropy at the heart of Project Management

February 28, 12:15 pm - 12:55 pm AEDT

The concept of ‘modern project management’ emerged in the 1940s and the first project management associations (INTERNET/IPMA and PMI) were formed in the 1960s, AIPM followed in 1976. These associations framed the concept of project management.


The prevailing view of project management for the next 40 years was based on the assumption that ‘a project’ was a definable entity capable of being managed and the application of processes to the management of a project would lead to success. The 2012 release of ISO 21500 and the contemporary versions of the PMBOK® Guide defined this line of development and allowed the various international associations to define professional membership by way of a single exam structure.

This phase of definition and convergence did not last, and the last 20 years have seen an accelerating rate of divergence in the concept of ‘project management’. This entropy at the heart of project management is multi-dimensional and driven by four overlapping factors:

  1. The expanding scope of project management, we now have program and portfolio management and pressures to include project identification and benefits realization within its overall scope.
  2. The rise of the stakeholder, projects are done by people, for people and their success is determined by ‘stakeholders’, not the ‘iron triangle’.
  3. The publication of the Agile Manifesto in 2001, completely reframing the way project work is undertaken on some ‘projects’, but ‘agile’ itself has now become a multi-faceted concept.
  4. The growing understanding of complexity and adaptive systems.


The result is a fracturing of the concept of project management, the competencies needed to deliver a small IT project in an agile environment are very different to the competencies needed to deliver a major engineering project. But the leaders of both types of endeavour are still called project managers.

This presentation will track the emergence and convergence of modern project management through to the early part of the 21st century, then map the rapidly diverging strands that are now encompassed by the concept of ‘project management’. From this basis it will seek to identify the challenges inherent in this increasing entropy, and offer some suggestions for the shape of the profession, associations, and qualifications going forward.

Managing Director - Mosaic Project Services
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