Projectification and its impact


on societal development in Germany



By Reinhard Wagner





The number and importance of projects is growing in Germany. A study by the German Project Management Association (GPM) published in 2015 shows a growth in the share of project work to approx. 40% in 2019. The share differs significantly from sector to sector, e.g. project work is more important in industry than in the public sector. Examples such as the still unfinished major airport in Berlin shows the potential professional project management still has in the public sector in Germany. In 2015, the large number of refugees has posed major challenges for German politics, society and above all for local communities. Both examples illustrate the role projects and project management play for societal development.

This article sheds some light in the recent developments of projectification and its impact on societal development. It is based on the research question »Does projectification have impact on societal development?« and clarifies relevant terms in regard to the projectification. The insights provided are based on literature research and a qualitative case study of developments in Germany. The increase in project work is calling for a large number of institutions, e.g. project management associations such as the GPM, whose activities help society to adapt to and deal with the new demands. The few studies on the impact of projectification at the macro level suggest that there can be both, positive and negative effects. However, further research is needed to assess the full impact. However, more research is needed to assess the full impact. An international research programme initiated by the Alma Mater Europaea is aimed at achieving this.

Key words:    Projectification, Projectified Society, Project Society, Societal Development


Projects have existed since the beginning of mankind. Unfortunately, we lack documents from the early days that would explain the purpose of the projects, the process and aspects of what we now call project management. Since the end of the 17th century, however, there have been publications that not only emphasize the great importance of projects for society, but also provide descriptions of the way in which projects are carried out. Daniel Defoe describes the 17th century in the introduction of »An Essay upon Projects« as the »Projecting Age« (Defoe 1697) and sets projects in the context of societal developments: »Projects of the nature I treat about are doubtless in general of public advantage, as they tend to improvement of trade, and employment of the poor, and the circulation and increase of the public stock of the kingdom«.

In Germany it took more than half a century longer for someone to come to grips with the term »project«. In 1761 the German Philosopher Johann Heinrich Gottlob von Justi describes his understanding of projects as follows: »In my opinion, a project is a detailed draft of a certain undertaking, whereby our own or other people’s temporal bliss is to be promoted; at which end all the means and measures to be taken, together with the difficulties and obstacles to be feared and the way to remove them, are clearly presented in such a draft.« (Krajewski 2004) He even claimed that all people are project makers.

The world of work has changed dramatically through the various stages of industrialisation. Projects play an essential role in the efficient implementation of technical innovations and organizational changes. The paradigm of “efficiency” determines the application of management methods and tools. “Modern” project management originated in the 1950s in the context of Aerospace and Defense projects. The approach was based on “Operations Research”, a mathematical approach to problem solving which, with the first computers, facilitated planning of large projects and conquered the world of projects relatively quickly. In recent years, development has not stopped at project management. Project management is developing dramatically and, in addition to industrial applications, is increasingly finding its way into public service and other areas of our society.


If one traces the developments of project work since the early beginnings, then one clearly recognizes a pattern which starts with the »management of projects«, i.e. the implementation of individual projects, leads via »management by projects«, i.e. entrepreneurial action by projects, to »project-oriented organizations«, which provide the predominant part of their delivery in form of projects (Lang/Wagner 2019).


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Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English.  Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright.  This paper was originally published in Proceedings of the 8th Scientific Conference “All about People: Relevance of Science and Education”. Maribor, Alma Mater Europaea, pp. 83-92.  It is republished here with the author’s permission.

How to cite this paper: Wagner, R. (2020). Projectification and its impact on societal development in Germany; Proceedings of the 8th Scientific Conference “All about People: Relevance of Science and Education”. Maribor, Alma Mater Europaea; republished in the PM World Journal, Vol. X, Issue I, January 2021.  Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/pmwj101-Jan2021-Wagner-projectification-and-its-impact-in-Germany.pdf



About the Author

Reinhard Wagner




Reinhard Wagner has been active for more than 35 years in the field of project-related leadership, in such diverse sectors as Automotive, Engineering, and Consultancy, as well as various not-for-profit organizations. As Managing Director of Tiba Managementberatung GmbH, a leading PM Consultancy in Munich/Germany, he supports executives of industrial clients in transforming their companies towards a project-oriented, adaptive and sustainably successful organization. Reinhard Wagner has published 36 books as well as several hundred articles and blogposts in the field of project, program and project portfolio management. In more than 20 years of voluntary engagement he served the German Project Management Association (GPM) as well as the International Project Management Association (IPMA) in a range of leadership roles (including President and Chairman) and was granted for his international commitment with the Honorary Fellowship of several IPMA Member Associations. Reinhard is Senior Lecturer at the Alma Mater Europaea and is currently finishing his doctoral thesis on the topic of Project Society. He can be contacted via reinhard.wagner@almamater.si