Project Management

Quality Project Management: A History Lesson

Southern Alberta Chapter

Mike Griffiths is an experienced project manager, author and consultant who works for PMI as a subject matter expert. Before joining PMI, Mike consulted and managed innovation and technology projects throughout Europe, North and South America for 30+ years. He was co-lead for the PMBOK Guide—Seventh Edition, lead for the Agile Practice Guide, and contributor to the PMI-ACP and PMP exam content outlines. Outside of PMI, Mike maintains the websites about leading teams and, which teaches project management for visual learners.

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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