Lessons Learned: Project Management Under Crisis Conditions Part 2

In part 2 of our blog, we are continuing with some lessons learned from one of America’s deadliest attacks, Pearl Harbor. Check out Part 1 here for some of the backstory.

Project Sponsors need to be boosters of the effort

The leadership of the Navy, in this case, made Captain Wallin available from his current posting, and became boosters of his effort. They made sure his efforts were supported, and that he had the tools and people to get the job done – and then they let him do it. In many cases, these men lent their expertise to the effort, through materials management or ordinance removal. In all cases, they supported the role fully, and continued to do so throughout the project.

Lesson – leadership needs to provide full support to project or it will not succeed.

Have a slice of humble pie

As Project Managers nowadays, most of the time we have a decent workspace to go and do our project planning and budgeting in. This was not the case for Captain Wallin. His first headquarters was a contractor’s shacks near the waterfront. Additional shacks were added as the project grew. And remember, many people still felt there was the possibly of another attack. Project management by gunpoint – we’ve all said it, but have we ever had to do it? Officers and enlisted men alike worked side-by-side in these arduous conditions to meet the project milestones.

Lesson – nobody on a project team is better than anybody else. We all serve a purpose.

Creating a Sense of Urgency

There is a great understanding that during this time in history, it was imperative to get the Pacific Fleet back online. After the attack, within days, the US would be at war and the Pacific would be the gateway to the East.

All Risk, All Reward

The salvage crew was discussed through the book, “Pearl Harbor: Why, How, Fleet Salvage and Final Appraisal.” Some of these men worked tirelessly around the clock to fix and restore their fleet. He noted that there was “no bickering or an ‘I told you so’ attitude.” All portions of the restore project were completed successfully. I will point out, again, that this was dirty work, with little or no time off. In the end, Captain Wallin made many recommendations to the commandant to award medals on the workers, and he also received the Navy’s Distinguished Service Medal. I don’t believe he did this for medals or recognition, but I do believe that it was an important part of the rebuilding effort.

Lesson – hard work does pay off.

Most of us know what happened next. The US declared war on Japan, Germany and Italy declared war on the US. The US and its allies won.

There are many examples of project management in history, I felt this story told a different view not really heard from before. From a project management standpoint, we had a disaster, and out of that came a strong success story, one we can learn from. I am always interested in hearing other examples. If you have any, please let me know. Get in touch with us online, or at 866.960.0001

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