What is The History PM?

What is “The History PM”?

In 2005, while studying for the PMP exam, I attended a presentation on the project management lessons from Custer’s Last Stand. Being an ardent history buff the presentation opened the possibility of combining the two fields. In 2008 I gave my first History/PM presentation. “Robert the Bruce PMP”. Since then I have regularly presented lessons from history for project managers and am now expanding into the virtual world. You may be asking; how can history help me improve as a project manager? A glib answer is the familiar one:

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Another answer is that it uses that well known project closing technique “Lessons Learned”.

But what can Robert the Bruce or General Custer, teach a modern-day project manager? Their time and circumstances appear to be totally alien to our present-day high-tech PM world. A key component in all projects past and present is people, and we are not that different, having the same needs and wants. Our situations may differ but with a little study, the problems are often remarkably similar.

This is not a best practices exercise, where we can ape historic figures to achieve success. For example, Robert the Bruce encountered enemies who were implacably opposed to him and committed to ensuring his project (a free Scotland) failed. His solution was to go through their lands with fire and sword; clearly not an option open to, or desirable to us. But we do need to identify if similar stakeholders exist within our projects and deal with them in a manner that is both ethical, acceptable, and effective.

Using historic events to analyze situations out-with our experience allows us to identify key factors, to think more deeply about our projects and explore diverse solutions. The unfamiliar allows us to be creative, expand our thinking, to produce more varied real-life solutions and practices.

It is also fun removing the procedural straight jacket, you will be amazed at how liberating and insightful it can be.

Consider it your very own Aesop’s Fables for PMs.

Please join me on this journey of discovery.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Interesting, enjoyable, just the right size read. Very well written and clearly relevant.

  2. Where History and Project Management Intersect: Looking forward to your articles.
    Love the way you bring history to life and make its lessons relevant and contemporary.

  3. Mark Norman

    This is a great idea, Jim. Thanks for doing this

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