20 July 2015 | 7:46
Sandra Misic

50 years anniversary of IPMA – The early period of IPMA – some informal notes

By Dr. Sc. Steen Lichtenberg, former IPMA President

How was the situation before and during founding our society originally called INTERNET, today IPMA, and what is its background?

In the 1950s, managers of building and construction projects existed. In my homeland, Denmark, the architects typically were the boss of the building project, irrespective of their qualifications as managers, because they had a great prestige in our society. Today’s more professional concept of Project Management and Construction Management did not exist. Delays were – not surprising – normal in spite of more simple building methods without todays complications concerning IT, “green policies”, unproven materials, etc.

A revolution in this area happened in 1957. Until then we used the Bar Diagram or the Line of Balance as scheduling tools. This year the principle of Critical Path Network methods were developed. In fact, two or three versions were launched independently of each other the same year.

The common reason was the new possibilities of the computers or “Electronic brains”, as they were called. Already then, their capacity was far beyond manual calculations. Suddenly, we could visualize the logical interrelationships between activities, focus upon the critical activities, and not least, we could augment the degree of details immensely. Consequently, these procedures spread internationally like wild fire, and groups of network freaks grew up every-where. First in North America and later in Western Europe.

INTERNET, today IPMA, the International Project Management Association, as you know, was founded in 1965 by a Western European group of such freaks. The name INTERNET was an abbreviation of “INTERnational NETwork planning”. As you all know, it was much later stolen from us in the 1980s, so we had to use our current official name IPMA. Very soon, even some Eastern Europe countries and later the USSR joined the society, inspired by Czechoslovakian researchers.

During the 1960s, the concept of Project Management and Construction Management developed slowly. When I joined the new department of Construction Management at the Technical University of Denmark as associate professor in 1967, we were only three Universities in the world, who taught that subject at university level. Stanford in California and Loughborough in UK, besides us.

In 1967, the two-year-old INTERNET society held its first International European Internet Congress in Vienna. I did not attend that first congress, but the following 11 congresses. Already at the second congress in Amsterdam in 1969, I witnessed that the theme was rather narrow. It was restricted to the applications and the theory of the Critical Path technique. When a few papers appeared about other scheduling methods, like LINE of BALANCE, criticism came from the audience. Focus was entirely upon scheduling according to the Network Technique, its theory and the implicational values of the various variants. These variants were eagerly discussed among researchers. I also recall that it was a sensation, that the manager of a large research department told us in his paper, that his research people would not accept just to be a number in an activity with a definitive duration. People Management was not born yet!

1ST INT SYMPOS

1st International Symposium, 1989

In 1969 our sister society, the Project Management Institute (PMI), was established in the USA. The department of Construction Management at Stanford University was one of the drivers. In a Construction environment, they also focused upon the Critical Path Techniques, and eagerly discussed the various variants.

In excitement over the large capacity of computers, schedules from now on consisted of several hundred and up to a thousand activities. The computer calculations were started at the end of the day´s work, so that the result could be ready the next morning. In the USA, authorities required a minimum of 1000 activities in networks at all public projects. The specialists, who made these Networks, lived in a world apart – a hundred or more specialists in one big office room produced these huge networks with little connection to the real world. The paper versions were several meters long! However, they were obligatory towards public clients. At the construction sites, they were neither understood nor accepted, and were “archived vertically”, while the construction managers used their own simple Bar Diagram.

The same year, 1969, in Europe the Swedish Network Association was founded as one of the first in Europe besides UK, Switzerland, and Austria and a few other countries. Many of us in Denmark became members of the Swedish association, until we in 1975 established the Danish Association, in fact exactly 40 years ago. The following congresses were remarkable to also include researchers and others from Eastern European countries and the Soviet Union in spite of the Cold War. That was rather unique and exiting at that time. In 1972, the third INTERNET congress was held in Stockholm, and the well-known Swedish industrialist, Olof Hörberg was elected president of INTERNET. During the following years, several national project management societies grew up in Western Europe, and even in Egypt.

The Egypt national society was quite active. They hosted in 1980s one of the current INTERNET International Expert Seminars, which were used as preparations to the following congress program. At this seminar we discussed how more than 4000 years ago they could successfully accomplish some of the biggest projects ever build, the pyramids.

cairo

IPMA Symposium Cairo, 1993

The congresses up to the 1980s were more informal with only 4-500 participants. That made it possible at the seventh congress in Copenhagen to arrange that local participants each invited a group of foreign participants to their home to a private dinner, so that all foreign participants had the possibility to be acquainted to some colleagues, and local food traditions. This idea caused many lifelong friendships. It was repeated with the same success at the next congress in 1985 in Rotterdam.

Dr. Sc. Steen Lichtenberg

Steen-foto-1M 600 dpi

Written by
Sandra Misic

Sandra currently works as Assistant to the IPMA President and Executive Director. Since joining IPMA in 2012, Sandra worked in FMCG sector for Procter&Gamble. She holds Master in Economics from Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Zagreb. After graduation she continued at the same University the doctoral programme in Business Economics. Her particular research interest is behavioral economics.

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