history of Karol Adamecki

Gantt charts haunt everyone whose work is somehow related to project activities. Moreover, the concept of a project includes any tasks that involve more than one stage of action with planned results and deadlines. Walter White and Jesse Pinkmann, for example, also engaged in project activities, only contrary to the law.

Primitive Gantt charts were once used in my working projects. On the left is a column with a list of stages, on the right is a timeline with deadlines. Sometimes the names of the people responsible for their implementation were hung on the stages. But each time building this table, deep down we considered it a meaningless and merciless mandatory program: the priority of the stages changed on the go, completely different people pulled the strap instead of those responsible, the deadlines were missed so often that shifting and recoloring the cells of the table somewhere in the middle of the project already tired of everyone.

The PERT charts that accompanied the Gantt charts looked like a sublimation of those who never learned to draw, and also did not save the matter.

Attempts to understand what is wrong with Gant’s creation, and whether there are alternatives, opened up a new name – Karol Adamecki, a man who not only was ahead of both Gant and his time, but came up with management as we know it, when abstract project management goes hand in hand with working with people. Unfortunately, all his developments of the late 19th – early 20th century were known within the Russian Empire, and then there was no time for management. Therefore, the primacy in the discovery of project diagrams remained with Gant, and the first attempts to describe management as a modern discipline were Taylor’s achievement. And Adametsky went down in history as an almost unknown genius. Further – just its history, interesting finds and insights. And an attempt to compare them with already known management methods.

Quite a bit of history

Adametsky was born in 1866 in the town of Dombrova-Gurnicza in southern Poland, graduated from the St. Petersburg Institute of Technology and went to work in a steel rolling production. First, in Dombrova-Gurnich’s hometown, then at Hartmann’s steel plant in Lugansk.

When Adamecki was promoted to assistant plant manager, he was able to participate in meetings of top management, which, among other things, discussed the problems of high production costs. Most of the specialists were foreigners, and they traditionally associated poor performance with the negligence of local workers. Then (as now) the number one reason for the failure of effective management was “well, they’re all lazy and just don’t want to work.”

Managers and workers of the Luhansk Steel Plant
Managers and workers of the Luhansk Steel Plant

Karol Adamecki did not succumb to stereotypes and decided to deal with the performance problem on his own. Scrupulously, secretly, he measured the time spent at each stage of work: the authorities might not approve the initiative, and the workers might think that he was just spying on them. Collecting the results of his observations in the form of a graph, he discovered what today would seem obvious to many – the inconsistency of individual operations, the senseless loss of time due to downtime of equipment and workers. And having discovered gaps in the stages and their inconsistency, he began to look for ways to eliminate them.

The first attempt to formulate the idea of ​​how to establish the relationship of processes in project activities, how to manage these processes and their relationships dates back to 1896. Adametsky came up with two tools at once: a harmonogram – for conducting project activities and a harmonograph – a device for creating harmonograms. Adametsky’s ideas made an impression on the Russian engineering community after he gave a talk “Principles of Teamwork” in 1903 at the Russian Technical Society in Yekaterinoslav. The idea was admired, the idea began to be put into practice.

Evidence has reached us that the use of the harmonogram made it possible to increase labor productivity immediately by 100% – 400%. There were several articles in Russian and Polish for “local” specialists with limited knowledge of these languages.

Working hours of sheet rolling shop
Working hours of sheet rolling shop

The first widely known publication about Adamecki’s invention is dated 1931, and this happened two years before his death. At that moment, in the Anglo-centric world of management, Gant reigned unconditionally with his diagram. Although Adametsky’s findings are more complex, they are more subtle and suggest not just a managerial tool, but a whole direction in the theory and practice of management. In addition, Adametsky, unlike Gant, understood that people are not lazy functions, and indeed not impersonal functions, but active participants in a meaningful process.

But about Adamecki’s discoveries later, first you need to deal with Gant.

So after all, what’s wrong and what’s wrong with Gant

As experts diplomatically point out in numerous guides, the main advantage of the Gantt chart is its simplicity. Henry Lawrence Gant’s first descriptions of his project system were in papers published in 1910 and 1915: bar charts showing start and end dates for milestones, and project elements such as resources, scheduling, and dependencies. More than ten years later than Adametsky.

One of the first Gantt charts
One of the first Gantt charts

The main misconception, which over time turned into the main problem of those who worked with Gantt charts, is that they were seen as a project management tool. In fact, this is a planning tool that allows you to see the scope of upcoming actions, but not a magic wand that will move the project on its own. The driving force of the project is people, but from Gant’s point of view, they are some kind of extraneous, if not a side effect in the project work.

The Gantt chart is a snapshot of the project, a rigid frame, a frozen status, he will not be able to “move” and “implement” anything. For all its clarity and initial simplicity, the Gantt chart requires constant updating of current statuses and, as the project becomes more complex, it can crumble. This is its functional flaw. But the main problem lies in the concept itself: Gant did not assume a “critical path”, his diagrams did not provide for critical operations, the braking of which could bring down the entire project.

With the development of management, the frame of the Gantt chart was supplemented with a spreading PERT chart. If Gant’s idea was to streamline project stages and deadlines, then PERT made it possible to build a project roadmap. This system was more complex and allowed to evaluate the dependencies between these stages. That is, it led to the “critical path”, which is so important to foresee in any project. PERT provided for the establishment of a “relationship with time”: it was possible to create different estimates of the project implementation time – the smallest, the largest, and the probable. But in what way is PERT close to Adamecki’s idea: in addition to the diagram itself, it provided for a method, the Program Evaluation Review Technique. True, PERT appeared in the 50s of the 20th century, or 50 years after the discoveries of Adametsky.

Guidelines for using the PERT method
Guidelines for using the PERT method

Harmonograph for building harmony

Why do I like the concept of Adametsky? First, humanism. He did not assemble a combine for the development of projects with people-cogs. He built his management system from the point of view of the philosophy of harmony. At the time of Adametsky, harmony was that very “boyana”, all thinkers were looking for it – from European Marxism to Russian religious philosophy.

Adamecki’s design system was based on the idealistic concept of harmonization. Adametsky was sure that the methods of scientific organization of labor should be based on laws that are universal. He imagined that everything in living nature operates according to these laws:

– the law of division of labor;

— the law of concentration and integration;

is the law of harmony.

Creating his management system, he tried to make something that rises above a simple “snapshot” of the project, above the table of statuses and tasks, some kind of embodiment of this universal harmony in the form of an organization / enterprise, people’s work and – most incredible – “spiritual harmony that should bind everything human beings cooperating in one complex organism, which is every industrial enterprise.

But one should not perceive Adametsky as a romantic who is divorced from reality. Still, the management of steel production requires pragmatism. Adamecki’s harmony was a working model, a very real model.

Speaking about the harmony of choice, he meant the responsibility of management, which must be aware of what working tools it chooses. Speaking about the harmony of actions, he meant the coordination of the working stages and their effectiveness to achieve the result. Speaking about the harmony of the spirit, he dreamed of teamwork and the conscious contribution of everyone. Neither Gant nor Frederick Taylor could even think of looking over the edge of the tables and seeing living people in the workers.

Like the idea of ​​universal harmony, the idea of ​​the harmonograph was quite popular at the end of the 19th century. History gives primacy in the invention to Blackburn. Or Lissajous. But Adamecki came up with his own harmonograph, which helped him build harmonograms.

Harmonograph by Newton & Co, 1909
Harmonograph by Newton & Co, 1909

Adametsky’s harmonogram consisted of a set of removable paper strips that were attached to the frame. Each stage of the project corresponded to one band. That is, work processes were planned not on a frozen sheet of paper, but with the help of many mobile strips. Each was marked with a time scale. The strips were fastened with clips to a special board in such a way that each stage of the project could live its own life and move relative to others. On the left edge of each strip was attached a narrow tab of thin metal or colored celluloid, indicating a period of time. The tongue slid along the strip and measured the elapsed time. “Drawing” a working draft was quite simple, and the sequence of stages and the time required for their implementation could “float”, but at the same time the whole process noticeably floated and moved. And these shifts and deviations could be managed – both on paper and in life.

The simplest diagram explaining the principle of constructing harmonograms
The simplest diagram explaining the principle of constructing harmonograms

I have come across statements that Adametsky not only invented modern management and management tools, but also designed the first “mechanical computer” in the form of his harmonograph (that is, thirty years before the development of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology).

This is what a harmonica might look like
This is what a harmonica might look like

After the revolution, Adamecki worked in Poland, was a professor at the Warsaw Polytechnic Institute and the first director of the Institute for the Scientific Organization of Labor, which he created. In the 1920s, he managed to publish his ideas in the works “Principles of Management Science” and “Cost and its Calculation”, but the Second World War destroyed both publications and manuscripts. In fact, an article in 1931 in the journal Organization Review is almost the only evidence of Adametsky’s genius.

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