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A Beginning of “Modern Project Management”?


There have been projects since man has had major tasks to perform. But, until the 1950’s, project planning and execution was primarily an individual and unique experience. Major projects and programs were managed by Universities or Government entities, generally without a uniform methodology. The exception might be in Engineering/Construction where a particular firms have a very successful project management methodology, but the methodology was generally not shared outside the firm.

The Russian activity with Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) in the 1950s precipitated the development project management methodology as we know it today. The Project Management Institute’s Guide to the PMBoK (Project Management Body of Knowledge) is the result of the evolution of this methodology.

The senior management of Hughes, led by Dr. Simon Ramo1, had been fearful that the antics of Howard Hughes would prevent the company from getting future military contracts1, so he and his associates broke away from Hughes in September 1953 and founded the Ramo-Woolridge Corporation. At about the same time the United States, concerned about the lead the Russians had in ICBMs placed the Space Systems Command under the Program Management of General B.A. Schriever. Dr. Ramo and the Ramo-Woooridge were pressed into service in the role of Systems Engineering and Technical Direction. One of the first products that was produced by these organizations was AF 3752 ,a series of documents that defined the process and procedures that would be used to develop the ICBM Program of the United States; Volumes 4 and 5 of AF 375 are: “System Program Management Procedures” and “Systems Engineering Management Procedures”, and are the precursors to modern project management, as we see it in the PMBoK. Gen. Schriever directed its use to the Air Force’s development centers including Wright-Patterson. I believe that contractors supporting Wright-Patterson adopted this methodology to form the core for the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBoK).

“The 375 series of Air Force Systems Command manuals constitutes a procedural baseline for management of programs involving relatively complex hardware, software, and manage­ment interfaces. These manuals have been developed from critical analyses of AFSC manage­ment experience with major system programs. They represent a standardized, integrated body of proven techniques which, although designed to implement Air Force 375 series regulations governing acquisition of Air Force systems, are applicable as well to many nonsystem programs with management requirements similar to those of major system programs. Consequently, HQ AFSC will direct the application of these manuals to all programs which HQ USAF places under AFR 375 management and, as appropriate, to other AFSC efforts. The 375 series of AFSC manuals was designed to cover foreseen management needs of sys­tems programs. Consequently, no program will find all provisions of all manuals necessary to its needs. These manuals are to be employed selectively only to the extent that they serve the needs of individual programs. It is the responsibility of each program director to determine when departures are warranted and request necessary waivers under the provisions of AFSCR 3752. AFSCM 3754 serves three purposes in the 375 publications: First, it defines the relation­ship of the other 375 series with the total system program management process. Secondly, it provides a chronological “road map” of the processes required during the system life cycle. Finally, it provides detail to the SPO functional organizations which, as of this date, are not adequately described in other manuals. In this manner, AFSCM 375-4 will assure that the management integrity of the system program is maintained. With the increasing complexity of military systems, AFSCM 3754 represents a forward step to improved management techniques. Any comments or questions regarding this or any of the 375 series documents should be referred to AFSC (SCSV) for resolution.          

B. SCHRIEVER General, USAF Commander

1 – “The Business of Science: Winning and Losing in the High-Tech Age”, Simon Ramo (May 1988)

2 – “Air Force Systems Command Manuals”, B.A. Schriever, General USAF

Please provide a comment, particularly if you have additional information about the beginning of “modern” PM.

Thanks ,  ,  ,   Max