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

Not On My Watch

But rust never sleeps. And neither does 14,700 metric tons of marble sitting atop a soft bed of dirt. Over the next 500 years the tower sunk deeper and deeper into the soft support, the south side burying itself over ten feet into the ground. By the time the effort was made in 1838 to excavate the ground floor of the structure, the inclination approached a hazardous 5 degrees. The excavation, designed to give visitors a full view of the entire campanile in a way that the original plan had intended, caused more settling and was promptly abandoned. The view would have to wait.

Mussolini, deciding that the wobbly edifice didn't accurately reflect the lofty stature of his reign, mounted his own attack on the project in the 1930's. His engineers dumped 80,000 pounds of concrete onto the foundation, but rather than straighten the structure, the dictator's directive only served to exacerbate the problem. The tower reacted by leaning yet further to the south.

The Italians were now growing increasingly anxious about their prize monument. As quaint as the tilt was, and as big as the tourist draw was, it was clear that their precious tower was in imminent danger of collapse. The public pressure was on, and over the next 50 years, sixteen different committees were appointed to deal with Pisa's problem child. And, in the end sixteen different committees did nothing about it. Though many wanted the glory of successfully restoring the Pisa's pride, nobody was willing to take the risk of inadvertently engineering its demise. Infighting, indecision, budgetary constraints, competition between ministries, and lack of direction ground the wheels of progress to a halt. On the back burner the tower simmered and quietly settled.

Lessons Not Learned  Lessons Not Learned

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