A tribute to Professor Geoffrey Trimble

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Posted by Kirsten on 24th Nov 2016

The world of project management has lost a true pioneer of the modern profession with the death of APM’s first president, Professor Geoffrey Trimble, who innovated, inspired and influenced both as a practitioner and as an academic.

He was an early and successful adopter of what was then network analysis, became a leading Professor of Construction Management and founded the Science and Engineering Council’s research into construction management.

He was also joint founder of the European Construction Institute and the first vice president of the International Project Management Association (IPMA).

Geoffrey, an Honorary Fellow of APM, was passionate about project management and lived to see his dream of acceptance for Chartered Status for APM.

“He was dedicated to setting up APM and to its future,” said his wife, Jean. “He was always thinking about the future of APM and was so proud of the people taking the association forward."

“One of his proudest moments was in 2004 when APM named a new academic award for the best postgraduate dissertation after him.”

A First Class Honours civil engineering graduate, Geoffrey began his career with Ove Arup and then management consultants PE, when he was appointed project manager for the new Alfa Romeo factory in Milan.

While working on this project in the early 1960s, he came across the technique of network analysis. Realising its potential, he brought it back to the UK. He applied it to his ground-breaking work on the construction of London Underground’s Victoria Line, which involved a 10,000-activity network, 22 main contractors, 14 departments of London Transport, two civil engineering consultants and 36 centres.

He organised teaching sessions for 140 people to ensure that the technique was properly understood and operated. Thanks to this approach, all three initial end dates were met to the day. This led to a similar role on the electrification of the London to Bournemouth main line and as consultant on the Hong Kong Mass Transit railway.

He also introduced network analysis to his good friend Albert Lester. The two men had met in the late 1950s and on his trips home from Milan, Geoffrey stayed with Albert, where they discussed the topic. (Geoffrey was also best man at Albert’s wedding.)

“We first used critical path analysis (CPA) together when we entered a Ministry of Transport design competition for the M1 motorway bridge over the Calder in Yorkshire. Later we worked together on the complex subsidence-proof foundations and structure of two halls of residence for the University of Nottingham,” recalled Albert, an Honorary Fellow of APM and author of the best-selling book, Project Planning and Control, for which Geoffrey wrote the foreword.

“His commitment to professional project management and particularly CPA and its use in industry is well documented by his many papers, and we both shared the conviction that planning large projects should start with the project team jointly drafting and refining the logic of the design and construction phases on paper before entering the data into the computer for detailed analysis.”

In 1967, Geoffrey was offered the chair of construction at Loughborough University, responsible for postgraduate teaching, research and consulting work. This world-leading course was the first to include project management as a topic in its own right.

“He brought vast experience in design, construction and project management of large projects to this post,” added Albert.

He had also met fellow exponents of network analysis in the UK at seminars organised by what was then INTERNET, later IPMA. The result of these meetings was the formation of a UK branch which became APM.

A more recent APM president, now vice president, Tom Taylor, enjoyed listening to and learning from Geoffrey and other ‘founding fathers’. “Even in my most recent conversations with Geoffrey, at his instigation we covered a spectrum of personalities, education and association business. He was fully committed in everything he did."

It was at the first ever INTERNET seminar in the UK that Geoffrey met Rod Baker and collaborated with him in defining one of the first personal computer systems for project planning – Micropert (later Plantrac).

“During my various terms on the APM Council, now APM Board, it was always Geoffrey who brought structure and sanity to the meetings,” said Rod. “He could cut across arguments and get to the core of the problems. He also chaired several presentations I gave to INTERNET conferences and was always good at summing up in a professional manner."

“We have lost a true gentleman and a true champion for project management.”

APM extends its sympathies to Jean, his children Ian and Christine and to their families.

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