IPMA International Project Management Association
13 May 2019 / 11:08

Steen Lichtenberg – another great projector passed away

It is very sad to inform that Dr. Steen Lichtenberg, former president and honorary member of the IPMA (formerly INTERNET), left us on March 19. Steen Lichtenberg (born 1930) obtained his MSc in Engineering from the Technical University of Denmark, and in 1974 his PhD with a thesis on new project management principles. After graduation Steen Lichtenberg started an academic career at the Technical University of Denmark, where he was appointed Professor of Project Management and Systems Engineering at its Construction Management Department. He was also a frequent visiting professor in Scandinavia and beyond. After his retirement early in the new millennium he continued to work as management consultant.

Lichtenberg participated in several Scandinavian societies for Project Management, and was one of the first members of the Project Management Institute (PMI). In 1982, he became IPMA President as successor of Roland Gutsch (Germany) and was followed by Eric Gabriel (UK). In 1993, Steen was awarded with the honorary membership of IPMA.

He was well known from his 1978 textbook on project management, which happened to be standard reference in Scandinavia. In this book and many other publications he advocated for the “Successive Principle” or later also called the “Lichtenberg Principle”.

The Successive Principle supports to handle the uncertainty or contingency in projects, budgets and plans in a controlled, efficient and scientifically based manner. Using a consistent top down procedure in successive steps may help to clarify the uncertainty in projects. In this manner it – besides other valuable benefits – has a potential to largely eliminate unplanned budget overruns and delays. This unique capability has been thoroughly documented. The Successive Principle is based upon an integration of modern statistical theory and psychology with well-known procedures of project, engineering and general management. In fact it allows human intelligence and intuition to play a more natural role as a supplement to the historical knowledge. Among others it applies research which bypasses the many serious pitfalls, which so far has hindered accurate and neutral expert evaluations.

The analysis principle provides support for decision-making for any form of quantitative estimates or calculations, in which the input is uncertain and where those in positions of responsibility need to know the mean value and uncertainty of the result with the highest possible degree of reliability. The Principle has proved to be particularly useful in the very early stages of a project, idea phases, authorisation and equivalent phases as well as in tendering and contract negotiation scenarios. It supports optimization of plans and profitability. The Principle is also used to bolster teambuilding, communication and consensus between the different parties involved and to solve problems with overloading.

Steen Lichtenberg was instrumental to the foundation of the profession and the professional bodies in Europe. He attended the preparatory meeting in Vienna for the start of an organisation called “INTERnational NETwork Planning Association INTERNET”. He became a member of the Swedish Project Management Association, called “NetPlan” during its foundation in 1968 and helped to get started with the Danish Project Management Association (called “ProjectPlan”) in 1975 and became its first President. During a talk last year in Copenhagen, Steen Lichtenberg told me that the first years of IPMA and its members was driven by trust, very informal, pragmatic and exciting, as it was an intercultural experience for all experts. As there were no funds available those days, everyone had to pay travel and accommodation from the own pockets. However, participation was high and the world congresses of INTERNET up to the 1980s were attended by several hundred people. During the Copenhagen congress in 1982, the local participants were asked to host 10-15 foreign participants to their homes for a private dinner. This kind of “speed dating” helped to getting acquainted with each other very fast and ended in many lifelong friendships.

We should take more care for our history, the heritage and the great men (and women) who helped to get started with what is nowadays an acknowledged profession.


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Reinhard Wagner

Author of this post

Reinhard Wagner has been active for more than 30 years in the field of project- related leadership, in such diverse sectors as Air Defense, Automotive Engineering, and Machinery, as well as various not-for-profit organizations. As a Certified Projects Director (IPMA Level A), he has proven experience in managing projects, programmes and project portfolios in complex and dynamic contexts. He is also an IPMA Certified Programme and Portfolio Management Consultant, and as such supports senior executives in developing and improving their organizational competence in managing projects. For more than 15 years, he has been actively involved in the development of project, programme and portfolio management standards, for example as Convenor of the ISO 21500 “Guidance on Project Management” and the ISO 21503 “Guidance on Programme Management”. Reinhard Wagner is Past President of IPMA and Chairman of the Council, Honorary Chairman of GPM (the German Project Management Association), as well as Managing Director of Tiba Managementberatung GmbH.