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

The Vision

In the first quarter of the year of 1173, the leaders of the most powerful city-state in Italy, Pisa, gathered with financial advisors, artisans, architects, and engineers to discuss plans to construct a one-of-a-kind monument befitting their affluence and undisputed leadership position in the post Roman Empire era. After a number of brain storming sessions, they decided that the project would be La Torre di Pisa — a forty-five foot diameter white marble bell tower of 207 columns, projected to stand some eight stories high. This opulent edifice would stand as the centerpiece of the Piazza dei Miracoli, and would serve as an ostentatious expression of Pisa's supremacy — financially, technologically, and artistically — over all potential contenders within the vast Italian empire.

Excited by the prospect of such a challenge to their engineering and design abilities, championed and generously funded by an enthusiastic government, and driven by the prospect of public recognition for executing such a crowning achievement, the organizing team quickly hired builders and broke ground on August 9th, 1173. They purchased only the best marble. They hired the most creative architects. They recruited highly skilled masons. And they brought to bear all of the most modern technology of their day. This project was to be a benchmark of Pisan innovation and technological prowess. With the eyes of the world on it, and the reputation of an entire city-state resting on its success, this project could not fail.

***  Introduction

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