Project Management

PM History Lessons: Titanic

PMI Southern Nevada Chapter

Paul Bruno, PgMP, PMP has more than 30 years of experience in the fields of project management and information technology. He holds bachelor's degrees in management and computer software, as well as master's degrees in business administration and history.

Many historical events and milestones meet the definition of a project as a “temporary endeavor with a defined beginning and end that is undertaken to meet unique goals and objectives, which will typically bring about beneficial change or added value.” The goal of the PM History Lessons series is to provide practical knowledge applicable to today’s projects while exploring some history along the way.

The RMS Titanic signified the greatest achievement in shipbuilding when launched in 1912, representing the pinnacle of luxury and technology. However, a prideful attitude engendered by the technological advances of the late 19th and early 20th centuries—and a plethora of bad decisions—led inexorably to its ill-fated maiden voyage and collision with history. Here are six lessons that project managers can take away from this tragedy… 

1. Avoid hubris
The late 19th and early 20th centuries saw remarkable advancements in technology. The phonograph, electric light bulb, automobiles, airplanes and wireless radio are examples of rapid advancement in human ingenuity during that time.

However, those advancements also generated a belief that humanity could overcome any obstacle—and created a dangerous level of hubris in human ability. In 1911, Shipbuilders magazine described Titanic as “practically unsinkable,” given its …


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"Opera is where a guy gets stabbed in the back, and instead of dying, he sings."

- Robert Benchley