Project Management

IT Project Lessons from Titanic (Part 7)

Durham Highlands Chapter

On the night of April 14, the ship California was north of Titanic, bound for Boston. After a near-fatal collision with an ice shelf, Captain Stanley Lord decided against proceeding forward and pulled up for the night. Surrounded by pack ice but in no danger, radio operator Evans, under orders from the captain, sent an ice warning to Titanic’s radio operators, who had been working a 14-hour day sending/receiving commercial traffic. Titanic responded with the infamous, “Shut up, shut up, I am busy. I am working Cape Race and you are jamming me.”


This last warning was not passed back to the bridge because of the message overload. The procedure for passing messages back to the bridge was confusing at best. Evans did not try again, turned off his wireless and went to bed.


The lesson from this for IT projects today is that any external warnings, from customer or supplier, need to be taken seriously, and thoroughly investigated.   Finding the meaningful information in a sea of “noise,” or redundant information, is invaluable. With Titanic, if someone had pieced together all the ice-warning information, it would have indicated a giant ice field, around 80 miles wide, directly ahead. Effectively, there was no macro view of the environment.


Any experienced mariner would recognize sea conditions indicative of ice fields. The sea is calmer, as the ice floes and pack ice dampen…

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If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason.

- Jack Handey