An aggregation of some general management


and associated antecedents

of modern project management



By Alan Stretton, PhD (Hon)

Sydney, Australia


I came to recognise project management as a formal discipline some time after having been introduced to general management as a formal discipline. I have therefore tended to look at project management through something of a general management lens.

In the course of discovering project management in this context, I therefore looked for associations between it and general management, and found a super-abundance. Indeed, I wrote a whole series of seven articles some time ago in this journal on general management functions and activities, and their relevance for the management of projects (starting with Stretton 2015g). At other times I have pushed for more direct materials in the project management literature on its all-important and pervasive general management components.

Another avenue I pursued, which was partly reflected in the above series, was to look back at some of the “popular” history of general management, and look for associations of some of these developments with developments in project management. I found a few relevant antecedents, which are the main topics of this article.

I have also elected to look briefly at a second group of antecedents of modern project management, which were initiated before “systems” approaches began influencing its development – a subject I will look at in a following article. These are a mixture of early initiatives towards coordinating/integrating across functions and/or exercising single responsibility in construction, other industries, and the US Air Force; plus some early planning techniques which were strongly adopted, notably in the construction industry.

I want to emphasise that this article does not aspire to be in any way definitive, and is not to be compared in any way with the several existing in-depth and scholarly works concerned with the history of project management (for example recent articles by Weaver 2022, 2023 and Giammalvo 2023 in this journal). Rather, it is what could be described as a partial investigation by an interested practitioner at the time, which none-the-less helped inform some of his subsequent writings on project management.


The relevance of general management to building project management skills

General management provides the foundation for building project management skills and is often essential for the project manager. On any given project, skill in any number of general management areas may be required. General management literature documents these skills, and their application is fundamentally the same on a project.     (PMI 2004:15)

This quotation headed the first of my series of seven articles in this journal mentioned in the Introduction. That series essentially presented an overview of the evolution and nature of some traditional management theories, and then discussed, in some detail, how various elements of these theories apply in the project management context. We now look at the first of these traditional management schools.



Although they cover only a part of the historical development of the classical or functional traditional management schools, for the purposes of this article I will stick with the examples of these schools used in Stretton 2015g.

These examples started with the “Scientific Management” school, with its focus on efficient task performance. The second cited Bureaucratic Models, with its concerns with authority and structure within organizations. The third was labeled the Management Process school, which broadly espoused universal management principles, and focused on the primary management functions of planning, organizing, leading, controlling, or variation there-of, as discussed in some detail in Stretton 2015g.  Amongst the many writers in this school I specifically mentioned Henri Fayol (1916), Irwick (1930s), Allen (1960s) and Koontz & O’Donnell (1970s).


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How to cite this paper: Stretton, A. (2023). An aggregation of some general management and associated antecedents of modern project management; PM World Journal, Vol. XII, Issue IV, April. Available online at https://pmworldjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/pmwj128-Apr2023-Stretton-general-management-antecedents-of-project-management.pdf

 About the Author

Alan Stretton, PhD     

Faculty Corps, University of Management
and Technology, Arlington, VA (USA)
Life Fellow, AIPM (Australia)


Alan Stretton is one of the pioneers of modern project management.  He is currently a member of the Faculty Corps for the University of Management & Technology (UMT), USA.  In 2006 he retired from a position as Adjunct Professor of Project Management in the Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), Australia, which he joined in 1988 to develop and deliver a Master of Project Management program.   Prior to joining UTS, Mr. Stretton worked in the building and construction industries in Australia, New Zealand and the USA for some 38 years, which included the project management of construction, R&D, introduction of information and control systems, internal management education programs and organizational change projects.  He has degrees in Civil Engineering (BE, Tasmania) and Mathematics (MA, Oxford), and an honorary PhD in strategy, programme and project management (ESC, Lille, France).  Alan was Chairman of the Standards (PMBOK) Committee of the Project Management Institute (PMI®) from late 1989 to early 1992.  He held a similar position with the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM), and was elected a Life Fellow of AIPM in 1996.  He was a member of the Core Working Group in the development of the Australian National Competency Standards for Project Management.  He has published 250+ professional articles and papers.  Alan can be contacted at alanailene@bigpond.com.au.

To see more works by Alan Stretton, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/alan-stretton/.