Max Wideman first wrote about the Leaning Tower of Pisa back in December 1999 in a tongue-in-cheek "Max's Musings" entitled Risk: Failure or Opportunity? In it he used the example to show how an apparently dismal project failure can turn out to be a resoundingly successful opportunity. Now, Kimberly Gerson has kindly done some serious research on the "Pisa Project" and presents it here for your enlightenment.
Published here April 2003.

Introduction | The Vision | Where Angels Fear to Tread 
Indecision Leads to Inaction | Lessons Not Learned | Not On My Watch 
Where So Many Others Have Failed | References

Lessons Not Learned

Finally, in 1272 the project was reinitiated. Again engineers and officials did a careful examination of the existing structure, but this time found to their surprise, that over the course of the previous century, the ground had compacted and now, rather than lean to the north, the tower had developed a strong lean to the south.

This was good news! If the preceding generation of builders had been effective in countering the northern lean by building taller columns on that side, then this generation could do the same on the south side. No need to work out a new construction plan. No need to tear down and build a solid foundation and start over. No need for trenching or digging or filling. The old plan worked just fine once, it would work again. So, off they went with enthusiasm and funding, this time constructing higher columns on the south side of the building to make up for the uneven floors on that side. By 1278 they had completed floors four, five, six and seven. Then again, the project stalled.

Another hundred years of indecision and indifference followed, and then in 1360 civic leaders initiated a mini-project to finish off the top of the tower and take credit for closing the project. Workers added a belfry, which they angled jauntily to the north to counter the sinking southern side, and two tiers of extra stairs inside the south side to compensate for the now perilous inclination. With that, the Tower of Pisa, the intended monument to all that was great about the city-state of Pisa, was declared completed.

Sure it leaned one way, then the other. Sure you couldn't really navigate the stairs without feeling perilously close to plummeting over the edge like one of Galileo's lead weights. Sure it wasn't exactly the icon of structural wonder its initiators had conceived, but by golly, the project was finished. Almost 200 years late, millions of lira over budget, and not at all to specifications, the Tower of Pisa Project could be stamped complete and put to bed.

Indecision Leads to Inaction  Indecision Leads to Inaction

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