Project Management

Quality Project Management: A History Lesson

Southern Alberta Chapter

Mike Griffiths is a consultant and trainer who help organizations improve performance through shared leadership, agility and (un)common sense. He maintains the blog LeadingAnswers.com.

How do we define quality as a project manager? Is it managing a project really well, or managing a successful project? How about managing a successful project really well? That sounds pretty good. However, it poses the next question: What is a successful project?Let’s look at some examples of project success, failure and ambiguity.

Apollo 13
Apollo 13, the third manned mission by NASA, intended to land on the moon. It experienced electrical problems two days after liftoff. An explosion occurred, resulting in the loss of oxygen and power and the "Houston, we've had a problem" quote from astronaut James Lovell (that is widely misquoted as "Houston, we have a problem.")

The crew shut down the command module and used the lunar module as a "lifeboat" during the return trip to Earth. Despite great hardship caused by limited electrical power, extreme cold and a shortage of water, the crew returned safely to Earth. While missing the main moon-based scope, it was a very successful rescue, allowing for future missions. Clearly, this was a remarkable achievement, but the original project goals were not met. Lovell now recounts this story at PMI conferences under the very apt title of “A Successful Failure”.

Shackleton and the Endurance
Ernest Shackleton lead the entire crew of his ship Endurance to safety after being …


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