On “The Origins and History of Earned Value Management”



By Wayne Abba

Michigan, USA

Ref: On “The Origins and History of Earned Value Management” by Patrick Weaver in PM World Journal Vol. XI, Issue VIII – August 2022.[1]

I read Patrick Weaver’s superbly researched article with much interest. As the US Department of Defense’s senior program analyst for contract performance management from 1972-99, I lived (dare I say made?) much of that history. Not alone of course! I had the good fortune and honor to work with professionals from all the US military departments, major civil agencies, and their contractors. My work also opened doors to other countries as Australia, Japan, Canada, Sweden, United Kingdom, and New Zealand collaborated with us to varying degrees.

So what can I add to Patrick’s history? He describes what happened; I can contribute why and by whom. The influential pioneers he names or references – Jim Morin, Ernie Fitzgerald, Whitey Driessnack, Quentin Fleming, et al – are gone. But I knew them all, and treasure their contributions. Other important names are missing from Patrick’s narrative: Bob Kemps, who was the Pentagon overseer during EVM’s formative period, and Gary Christle, who succeeded him and was my immediate superior during my entire tenure in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Without their leadership, we would not be having this conversation today.

Indeed, that is a main theme of my commentary – the extent to which major policy decisions by organizations, even countries, are influenced by personality and perseverance. The people I named were not shrinking violets. The power of their personalities overcame bureaucratic obstacles and made things happen.

I do have a quibble with Patrick’s article. Let’s deal with it first. I find his description of Earned Schedule (ES) as “an extension of earned value management” disappointing. I first cut my teeth on EVM as an Army procurement intern in the early 1970s and understood from the beginning its power as an early warning indicator and its limitations. The oft-repeated shortcoming of EVM – that it provides false schedule variance information – is simply wrong.

The so-called shortcoming is not a bug, it’s a feature. EVM depends on a performance measurement baseline, derived from the schedule. What schedule? Well, if one wishes to have the earliest possible warning indicator, the baseline should be set using early finish dates. Conversely, if one wishes to avoid reporting variances to management or a customer, the baseline can be set using late finish. Between these extremes lie myriads of debates about how to manage and report project status. My preference is for early warning, providing time to change course.


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How to cite this article: Abba, W. (2022).  On “The Origins and History of Earned Value Management”, Commentary, PM World Journal, Vol. XI, Issue X, October.  Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/pmwj122-Oct2022-Abba-on-the-origins-and-history-of-earned-value-management.pdf

About the Author

Wayne F. Abba

Michigan, USA


Wayne Abba is an independent consultant in program and project management. For 17 years before retiring in 1999, he was the senior program analyst for contract performance management in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition & Technology). He was a volunteer expert advisor to the US Government Accountability Office team that published the “Cost Estimating and Assessment Guide: Best Practices for Developing and Managing Capital Program Costs,” and “Schedule Assessment Guide: Best Practices for Project Schedules.” He is (twice) Past President, College of Performance Management.

Wayne is a member of the Program Management Improvement Team advising the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Office of Safety, Infrastructure and Operations. He also serves on the board of the Graduate School Japan, a nonprofit organization that provides training and consulting services to Japan government ministries, including planning for management of the Fukushima nuclear plant decommissioning. His voluntary work with the National Science Foundation includes membership on several project review panels ranging from conceptual through final design reviews, and reviewing the National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s cost estimate for the recent decadal survey.

Wayne can be contacted at wayneabba@aol.com

[1] Weaver, P. (2022). The Origins and History of Earned Value Management; PM World Journal, Vol. XI, Issue VIII, August. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/pmwj120-Aug2022-Weaver-origins-and-history-of-earned-value-management.pdf