Seven Project Management Wonders of the World

On 1st December, Glen Alleman (at Herding Cats) posted a quote which I think was there to highlight the daftness of estimating precision and the foolishness of predicting project impossibility.  Only Glen will know how he really intended us to interpret his post.

Anyway, it led me to observe that the project in his quote (The Hoover Dam) is dwarfed by the achievement of the Panama Canal.  I learned a lot about this project from Tom Kendrick’s excellent book “Identifying and Managing Project Risk: Essential Tools for Failure-Proofing Your Project”.  Tom uses the Panama Canal as a case study on risk management throughout the book.

It then struck me that the Panama Canal is truly a modern wonder of the world.  Not only is it awesome in scale and achievement but, like the original seven, it is a navigational landmark.  The seven wonders of the ancient world charted the Mediterranean coast.

Photo Credit: lyng883

So here is my challenge:  what would my readers nominate for the other six of the Seven Modern Project Management Wonders of the World?

To define terms:

  1. Modern
    I would suggest that to be modern, its completion has to be within the life of someone alive today.  I don’t know the precise stats, but I guess that takes us back around 115 years, so lets say anything finished after 1890.
  2. Project Management
    Any achievement that required exceptional project management to get the job done – in any arena from civil to mechanical to electrical to software engineering, to events, business transformations, scientific endeavours or even political movements.  Be imaginative.
  3. Wonders
    My qualification for being a wonder is that it would make anyone with a soul and the wit to appreciate a great accomplishment say “Wow!” – and do so in a truly awestruck way.
  4. World
    On or off – I don’t want to exclude the space industry – after all, their projects all started here.  Any that truly started on another planet may be awesome, but validation will be tricky.  No sci-fi; we’ll save that for another time (but the Ringworld would have to be in with a chance!)

Please use the comments box to give your ideas (and reasons), and please tweet and blog to your networks to help get as many ideas as possible.  Before Christmas, if I get enough ideas, I’ll set up a poll to find the top seven.


9 thoughts on “Seven Project Management Wonders of the World

  1. Glen B Alleman


    The quote was meant to show that Frank Crowe could estimate to cost of the Dam within a few 10’s of percent. Why because he was a subject matter expert, knew the domain cold, had led the development of other Dam’s and come in on cost and on schedule a few dozen times before. Had worked on projects in extreme conditions and most of all – had a cadre of trusted and experienced engineers.
    In the end though he had a talent for “getting things done,” in a way that was rare then and even more rare these days.
    I worked on a large ($7B) Department of Energy program,where the Program Manager was a former Mining engineer. He taught us the Plan of the Week and the Plan of Day and never ever confusing effort with results. As well, if you couldn’t keep up are dropped from the team in a flash.

    These kinds of behaviors are rare in IT (if at all) on non-defense and that’s where the trouble starts. The self-actualization crap is simply not tolerated when there are billions on the line – get to work or look for work somewhere else is the “over harsh” culture at times. Sure we had lots of teaming and training, but in the end you simply had to deliver on what you said you were going to, our the management would find someone else.

    The book is a very good PM and human study, worth getting.

  2. Mike Clayton Post author

    Hank – thank you for starting us off. I expect all my readers will know what your three space projects are and have their views, but I certainly don’t know what Boston’s Big Dig is (I’m in the UK). Can you say a little about what it is (or suggest a good link) and why it’s a wonder.

  3. Pingback: 7 project management wonders of the world | Project Management Training with Ron Rosenhead

  4. David Weller

    ‘Man on the Moon’. Truly an ‘out of this world’ project, with the ‘kick off’ being given by President Kennedy. A lesson in communicating a vision, but perhaps a bit weaker on the benefits case?

  5. Carolyn Pratley

    There are lots of nominations for engineering projects, so to change the tone my nomination for project management wonder is the Live Aid concerts – incredibly complex, achieved in very short timescales and, so I believe, all organised without contracts, paperwork or anybody being paid.


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