Titanic Lessons in Project Leadership
Additional lifeboats would unnecessarily clutter the boat deck that could be used as a promenade area.
Titanic sailed on her maiden voyage in full compliance with legislation, with 2, passengers and crew on board, but with a total lifeboat capacity for just 1, passengers. He believed that new giant ocean liners needed a larger number of lifeboats than the number required by rules set by the British Board of Trade. He presented his plans during meetings held with White Star Line but did not press his views after the client refused to accept his plans, considering this to be a client decision.
A trail of mishaps and near misses pointed to the challenges of controlling the hydrodynamic forces of the new class of ocean liners:. Near misses and mishaps are opportunities to learn and to take steps to make sure that similar problems will not happen in the future. However, instead of increasing awareness, they contributed to augmenting the level of confidence in the new class of ships in terms of maneuverability and endurance to collisions.
The Board of Trade Survey Report shows Titanic in compliance with twenty lifeboats on her maiden voyage. Confidence is a leadership virtue, but the border between confidence and overconfidence is easily crossed. Titanic and her sister Olympic , the largest ships ever constructed, were 45,ton ships. The report of the disaster hearings would find, among other conclusions:.
Organizational silos — bureaucratic or cultural barriers between departments or groups — decrease incentives to collaborate, share information, or team up to pursue common objectives. Photo Credit: The U. National Archives and Records Administration. The winter of was the mildest winter in thirty years, resulting in the creation of an enormously large crop of icebergs from the Greenland glaciers. Unusual winds blew these bergs far southward, crossing established ship routes. They had their own cleargoals and priorities, namely to send and receive commercial paid messages for passengers.
Project Management Lesson: Planning Matters
There was little established coordination or procedure, and no incentives for the radio room and the bridge to handle ice warnings cooperatively. On April 14, , the day of the disaster, Titanic received seven iceberg warnings. Had she but heeded the one warning that she transmitted she would probably have saved herself. The disaster hearings also discovered that an important ice-warning message was received approximately one hour before the accident.
The SS Californian , on the same route of the Titanic , stopped due to ice and tried to warn Titanic.
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I am busy. I am working Cape Race. Ineffective coordination, procedures, and communication between organizations that should have worked together were contributing factors in blocking essential information that could help to prevent the disaster. No job in an organization is too small to help break the sequence of events that create a crisis. In the case of the Titanic , the disaster hearings reports and other sources indicate that lookouts who could have prevented the disaster did not have the tools or status needed to ensure their concerns would be acted on.
This set a high level of confidence for the maiden voyage or production. Such was the confidence in the safety of the ship, that by the end of the project, disaster recovery and business continuity plans were considered superfluous. As the ship went into operation, a perception emerged that even if things did go wrong operationally, the ship had enough safety features to protect it. This instilled a mindset in the crew and passengers that the ship was unsinkable.
Why else were 53 millionaires aboard? Similarly, many of today's IT project failures are typically due to compromises made throughout the project, almost innocuously, where they are not picked up, understood, and identified as risks. On leaving Southampton, Titanic had a near collision, similar to the incident between Olympic and Hawke. The steamer New York broke her own moorings and came within four feet of Titanic, indicating the challenges in handling the large ship.
At Queenstown, the last port before the Atlantic crossing, Board of Trade inspectors checked Titanic for safety. A lifeboat drill was performed to determine crew readiness, with two lifeboats lowered. The poorly executed test failed to highlight that the crew was not prepared for a disaster that would require the launch of all 16 lifeboats, as would be necessary in a calamity.
Today, IT projects' business executives and project managers need to know the impact of the implementation on business services, the risk of remaining live with it, and a well laid out plan of alternatives. The project manager needs to have at least reviewed the disaster recovery plan and business continuity planning prior to implementation. At sea, Titanic's maiden voyage, or operations stage, was riddled with problems.
First, an ice detection test was fudged because a mariner failed to report a problem with it.
Second, Titanic received eight reports warning of icebergs and icefloes. However, the radio operators sporadically relayed these to the bridge, because they were preoccupied with the flood of outgoing commercial radio messages. The radio operators were employed and paid by Marconi to transmit messages for first class passengers. Third, the lookouts were missing binoculars, and had repeatedly reported that since leaving Southampton, but were ignored. On top of all this, Ismay was patrolling the ship and ignoring operational procedures by pushing the crew to reach maximum speed.
The ship's officers failed to piece together the extent of the ice field and understand the true danger, as the feedback systems went awry. The collision was probably inevitable, with the compromised safety features, the failure of feedback systems, and the belief that Titanic was invincible. But what was scandalous was that bad management turned what could have been mere embarrassment into an outright disaster. Passenger evidence at the inquiries was consistent: hundreds described Titanic innocuously coming to a halt with a quiver or grinding noise that lasted a few seconds, rolling over a thousand marbles Brown, For example:.
There was no violent jolt sideways or repeated strikes along the ship's length, or rebound effect, as are common with a side-swipe against an ice spur when a ship is turning very hard away from it. The breakfast cutlery in the dining salons barely trembled and drinks remained unspilled in first class smoking rooms. Ismay was hell-bent on saving face, and what greater feat than Titanic saving herself? His anxiety over White Star's reputation created an atmosphere where mistakes were easily made. He only succeeded in turning the situation into a horror.
Engineers later testified the ship sailed forward at three knots with a grinding noise. This forward motion further ruptured Titanic's double hull and the design flaws compromised the ship, as it could not handle the increased rate of flooding. Following the disaster, the U. The U. Ismay and the remaining officers concocted the ice spur coverup. It recommended lifeboat space for every person on all ships from U. The British government assisted in the cover up and saved White Star from bankruptcy. After all, with the Great War looming, Britain needed large ships for transportation.
It condemned Captain Lord for not responding to flares and criticized the British Board of Trade for not updating lifeboat regulations. The success of projects should not be measured at deployment, but rather after the solution has been in production for awhile and carefully measured.
Project Management Lessons from the Titanic
Metrics should be closely tied to the overall impact on the business. The roots of Titanic's disaster were in the project, compromises to safety features, and elevation of expectations that allowed business pressures to override operational procedures. Davie, M. Hollaway, K.
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Hyslop, D. Titanic Voices. New York: St. Martin's Press. Kozak-Holland, M. Lessons from History b Functional versus non-functional requirements.
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NewsWise b Why software fails. The Standish Group. Wels, S. By Supekar, Rajeev Japan's energy landscape has turned upside down in the past few years. A country once dependent on nuclear energy was forced to rush into renewables after the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant…. Article Risk Management , Sustainability 1 June By Fister Gale, Sarah The danger zone for deadly natural disaster knows no boundaries.
Last year alone brought severe flooding in China and Peru, devastating earthquakes in Mexico, historic hurricanes in the United…. By Schur, Matt Nuclear cleanup projects have no margin for error. One misstep can expose workers and a region's environment to devastating radioactive contaminants.
But a project team at a legacy U. By Bongiorni, Sara It turns out diamonds might not be forever. Publishing or acceptance of an advertisement is neither a guarantee nor endorsement of the advertiser's product or service. View advertising policy. Learning Library. Titanic lessons for IT projects. The sinking of the luxury cruise ship R. Titanic is a exemplar example of a project that over-promised and--tragically--under-delivered. As with all failures, especially as with those having the Titanic's catastrophic scale, civilization can learn much so as to avoid such outcomes in the future.
This paper examines the lessons learned from the Titanic disaster in relation to improving the performance of information technology IT project teams. In doing so, it describes two types of IT project failure; it lists ten IT projects that ended as extraordinary failures and six IT projects that failed--after delivery--to operate properly. It then analyzes the Titanic's design and its last and only voyage in relation to implementing IT projects, explaining why the ship's sinking was actually a result of poorly managed efforts in designing, constructing, and operating the vessel.
It identifies six factors that can cause IT projects to fail. Introduction Imagine yourself on one of Titanic's lifeboats being picked up by Carpathia. Project Failure Rates Today In the Standish Group brought attention to the success and failure rates of IT projects through a landmark report, Chaos, which kicked off much research that continues today with the Standish Chronicles.
Success and Failure Rates of Today's IT Projects Typically, there are two types of project failures: A project that consumes resources but fails to deliver an acceptable return on investment ROI , is terminated before completion, or is poorly scoped, so that resource allocation is insufficient. This results in low adoption or produces insufficient value and no lessons learned. A project that consumes resources but fails to deliver as proposed, exceeds budget, exceeds time, or doesn't meet specifications.
Project Management 101: Lessons from the Titanic
In May , the Australian Navy Seasprite helicopters were grounded due to software problems, with billion spent. In , the U. Over one month period, the FBI gave its contractor nearly requirements changes. In May , a major hybrid car manufacturer installed a software fix on , vehicles. The contract allowed for 6 weeks of acceptance testing and never tested the ability to handle a rate increase. The following list of failures happened during and after implementation: In March , US Airways struggled with a faulty reservation and ticketing system, and kept lines down by adding workers and asking travelers to use the Internet for check-ins.
In December , a computer systems outage made it difficult for air traffic controllers in Florida to identify and track more than flights in the air, allowing some planes to come too close together, according to officials. In December, the software was questioned after an erroneous order to sell , shares of J-Com Co. In December , Comair airline had to face a cancellation of over 1, flights on Christmas Day after its computer reservations systems crashed. In November , a computer failure at the Department for Work and Pensions DWP stopped 80, staff from processing new pensions and benefits claims for several days.
Development halted with delays and higher costs due to implementation and design problems. Exhibit 3 — Titanic's Soft Landing. Great Shipwrecks of the 20th Century. New York: Gallery Books. Bristow, D. Titanic: Sinking the Myths. The Last Log of the Titanic. Lord, W.