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A tribute to APM founder, Dr Martin Barnes CBE

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A founding member of APM, and an ambitious pioneer of the profession, we share our appreciation of the life and work of Dr Martin Barnes CBE

Dr Martin Barnes CBE

The project profession has paid tribute to Dr Martin Barnes CBE, a founding member of APM, who sadly passed away in February. Martin was APM’s longest-serving president (from 2003 to 2012), chair from 1986 to 1991, and was named an Honorary Fellow in 1995.

“Martin had a number of senior APM roles and accolades including being a past chair and president, an Honorary Fellow and a winner of our most prestigious Sir Monty Finniston Award,” said Professor Adam Boddison, APM’s chief executive. “However, it is most notable to me that he was above all a friend to APM. Although I did not have the opportunity to meet him, I have been struck by the warmth in which he was clearly held.

“It is sad that in APM’s 50th year that we are seeing some of APM’s founders pass. However, we are so grateful to Martin and the other founder members for setting us on such a good path. It is a testament to them that we have such a bright future and I’m sure he would be rightly proud of that.”

Martin had a civil engineering degree from the University of London and a PhD from the University of Manchester. His doctorate was awarded in 1971 for research into improved methods of financial control for engineering projects. His contribution to the profession was immense, not least for his invention of the classic Time/Cost/Quality triangle – known as the ‘Barnes Triangle’ or Iron Triangle.

Speaking to APM’s journal, Project, in 2012, Martin said of the inception of the famous Barnes Triangle, that he “really didn’t know just how important it would become.” He said that he created it because, when he was first running projects, “they weren’t even referred to as projects. You had cost engineers to look after the money, planning engineers to look after the time and nobody was really looking after the value of quality of what was actually being produced. Nobody was in charge of making sure that the end product was the useful or valuable thing that the client wanted.”

Martin set up his own project management business in 1971, which merged with what is now PricewaterhouseCoopers in 1985. Latterly a consultant in project management, Martin was also executive director of the Major Projects Association for nine years until 2006. He advised on significant projects in many countries in Europe, Asia and Africa, for the World Bank, other funding agencies, governments, promoters and major contractors, and across many sectors including engineering, defence, aerospace, IT, financial, business change and the media.

Martin’s BBC television programme on project management has been used as a training aid in many countries. He also led the team that produced the New Engineering Contract (NEC), a system of contracts designed to facilitate and stimulate the use of modern project management across all the contributors on a project. The NEC is now being used in over 20 countries and has been adopted by the UK government for all publicly funded construction projects.

Martin Barnes had been active in the International Project Management Association (IPMA) since 1972, and was a Fellow, former board member and chairman of its Council of Representatives. He was a recipient of the Chartered Institute of Management’s Special Award and of the Institution of Civil Engineers’ Watson Medal in the UK. He was also a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, the UK’s highest engineering recognition, and was a Churchill Fellow. In 2009 he was awarded a CBE for services to civil engineering.

Asked by Project what his proudest career moment was, Martin replied: “I am not a proud person but many things have been very rewarding. Seeing the success and wide adoption of the NEC contract for one. Making and being in the first television programme about project management with the BBC was great fun. But I am proud of the project management courses which I developed and ran at the Outward Bound School in the Lake District for many years.”

Tom Taylor, a fellow past APM president, said: “One of the reasons Martin was the longest serving president of APM was because he wanted to be in on the whole project management journey. To be present from unknown and unheard of, right through to chartered status – in a single lifetime or a single career. And he made it – all the way – in his lifetime and his career. Martin was not just on this journey, he was in the front row every step of the way – leading, encouraging, cajoling, entertaining.”

Martin had always been at the forefront of the development of project management and had worked relentlessly to ensure that it became a fully recognised profession. Always a pioneer, Martin changed the landscape of project management forever.


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  1. Grahame Godding
    Grahame Godding 24 February 2022, 12:13 PM

    The Project Management lessons learned with Martin on the ‘Towards Project Management’ course at the Eskdale Outward Bound Centre in the early 80’s stayed with me and were successfully applied throughout my career. A true inspiration. Sadly missed

  2. Harry James
    Harry James 24 February 2022, 02:57 PM

    Martin was a man of his time a true leader in all aspects his legacy is assured - yes the iron/ golden triangle inspired me to produce V+P=C ie vision + passion = creativity my mantra as a project manager - Martin many thanks for all you gave to us Harry James FRICS FAPM

  3. David Shannon
    David Shannon 23 January 2023, 03:16 PM

    Good to see that Martin's leadership and contribution is widely recognised. He was a good friend to many of us. He did write an article in Project refuting the use of "Quality" as one point of his famous triangle, preferring the term "Performance". I recommend the moniker The Barnes Triangle. He was one of the giants on whose shoulders we stand.