|Categories:||Project management Case study|
At the time when Gustavus Adolphus was king of Sweden, between 1611 and 1632, the Swedish empire engaged in battles with its neighbors frequently. Therefore, the king commissioned a massive project of building the Vasa ship from 1626 to 1628 to bolster his leading military power (Swedish 8). Initially, the king requested for just a small traditional ship. However, he later asked the constructors to make the ship bigger despite the little time they had. The ship was 135 feet long; it carried 64 guns arranged over two gun decks. Up to this period, this ship was one of the largest and the most expensive to the history of Sweden. However, during its launch on 10th August 1628, the ship only sailed for a few minutes covering less than a mile from the coast since a gust of wind made it capsize and scuttle, taking down with it 50 of the 100 crew members who were on board (Swedish 9). The ship was too top-heavy to be stable. Nevertheless, despite the instability, the King still pushed her to the sea since he was eager to see it fight (Linda 1). Luckily, the salinity of the water into which the ship sunk helped to preserve it. Consequently, salvaging the ship was possible and it now rests in a museum of its own.
Major problems associated with the project
This project is a good indication of poor project management. In the beginning, the King needed a small traditional ship, but he consistently insisted that the constructors increase the length of the ship as fast as possible. Therefore, there was no time to pay much attention to the engineering needs of the ship. According to Swedish (12), the constant change of the project ultimately contributed to the end of the ship. Moreover, the vessel was quite cumbersome and unstable for the sea.
Lessons applicable to modern day projects
A project manager should have strong sponsorship commitment and be able to control the scope of the project. The king was the principal stakeholder and the sole sponsor of the project with all power and wealth concentrated in his hands (Richard & Willshire 18). However, he had too much influence on the project as the sponsor but did to manage the scope upfront. It is important to state the extent of the project at the beginning, and any changes thereof controlled as the project progresses.
Time pressure marks one of the reasons behind the failure of this project. The king demanded constant changes on the ship as soon as possible as the project progressed. It is paramount to allocate adequate time for the completion to avoid pressures from time constraints whose result is the weak conclusion of the project. Another lesson from this project is about the importance of proper planning. Nowhere do we see a detailed plan of the building of the ship. A program is crucial as the adage says that failure to plan is planning to fail.
Moreover, projects should not have too many requirements if one expects success. Clearly, the king keeps demanding for additional features to the ship. These unplanned alterations lead to the development of an unstable ship. Finally, it is important to take it slow with innovations. While changes are good on a project, it is necessary that project managers do not go overboard for a sustainable project. The ship was one of its kind; with a two gun-deck and this innovation could have led to the failure of the project.
Fairley, Richard E., and Mary Jane Willshire. "Why the Vasa sank: 10 problems and some antidotes for software projects." IEEE software 20.2 (2003): 18-25.
Navy, Swedish. "Why the Vasa Sank." IEEE SOFTWARE 1 (2003): 9.
Rising, Linda. "The Vasa: A Disaster Story with Sofware Analogies."
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