Risk: Failure or Opportunity?
You are responsible for an important institution and have this desire to build
a fitting monument to its achievements. You decided that a tower of great architectural
beauty will be built in close proximity. Since the site is close by, ground conditions
should be well known and can be taken for granted. Besides, soil investigations
take time and add considerably to the cost. Recipe for failure? Of course.
Construction commences but when the tower reaches four storeys tilting is evident
and construction is halted. Years later, construction is resumed only to be halted
after adding four more storeys. Now well over schedule and cost, a definite project
failure? Certainly. More years later, a penthouse is added-off-center in an attempt
to redistribute the load. Even so, the penthouse floor is so out-of-level that
one side has to be raised by over 30 cms (12 inches). Under the added load the
tower continues to incline, and now several degrees out of plumb, it is never
used for its originally intended purpose.
The tilting continues to progress, albeit very slowly, but by now your tower has engendered a great
fondness so that every effort is made to save it. Many and various are these
efforts to stabilize the tower and even to right it, but more often the condition
is aggravated rather than improved. Needless to say, dignitaries and politicians
wade in with threats, counter threats and law suits. By any project management
standard, this is not just a failure but a project disaster.
If you haven't recognized
it, this is the story of the Leaning Tower of Pisa in central Italy, a fascinating
read. Begun in 1173, the tower was finally finished in 1370 and still exists
to this day. The tower is renowned world-wide and thousands of tourists come
to see it every year. Recovery has engaged the best architectural, engineering
and geotechnical minds in the business, and hopefully the delicate engineering
works currently underway will save it from final collapse. That the building
has survived for over 800 years is remarkable in itself, considering the short
life span of most of our modern buildings. By these measures, the project has
been a valuable asset and an outstanding success. Our point is that before you
condemn a project as a failure based on narrow project management criteria, first
consider its potential for real opportunities.
For the history of the Pisa tower, visit: http://www.endex.com/gf/buildings/ltpisa/ltpisa.html.