|Endurance, cutting through the ice on sail and steam engine|
For those who don't know the story, back in 1914, there were still some difficult places to reach on earth and explorers willing to expend large amounts of money, time and lives on being the first person to reach these places. Ernest Shackleton was part of Scott's 1901, failed expedition to the south pole, not the 1911 one that cost Scott his life and the life of his crew.
|Ice mountains formed by moving pack ice|
Realizing he was not going to achieve his initial goal of crossing Antarctica on dog-sled, he changed the project's goal to ensuring that every member of his expedition survived the ordeal. (A pretty lofty goal in those days when losing half your expedition crew was commonplace. This is still true on many Everest expeditions)
He proved himself an excellent leader for this second goal. He worked on his men's warmth, shelter, comfort and mental health. He organized a sail on lifeboats to the nearest land mass, Elephant Island, before the ice all melted. He organized a rescue mission, sailing over open Antarctic water to South Georgia island, (a ship voyage considered by many to be the most impressive in the entire history of sailing).
Read the details here:
But let's look at the entire project from a good project management perspective:
Idea Phase: Good job, getting backing and getting people excited to join. He even acquired a stowaway with his enthusiasm. Grade A
Planning Phase: Filled the ship with valuable supplies that ended up saving their lives. Probably missed some key information that could have been supplied by Norwegian whalers. Things like: When does the pack-ice form? How thick is it? How much pressure does it exert? Grade D
Early Execution Phase: Completely ignored valuable information from people with knowledge who warned him not to attempt what he was doing at the time. Didn't keep pressing forward with his steam engine and allowed the ship to become completely trapped. Grade F
Rethinking Phase: Changed the Project Objective on his own. Normally a huge no-no but given that he had no way of communicating with the stakeholders who have this authority, he took it on himself to change the objective to what he thought was right at the time. (It's what the team thought was right as well and he was vindicated on return for making the right decision) Grade A
Replanning Phase: Knew that the ice would destroy his ship so he set up camp on the ice in such a way to survive the winter. Grade A
Early Execution Phase: Ensured that morale stayed high by giving the best supplies to the lowest ranked members of the expedition. Encouraged work, hunting parties, diversions to make it through the three months of darkness. Got the men safely to dry land before the ice melted. Grade A
Middle Execution Phase: Organized the rescue mission. Put the best sailors on the rescue ship and led it himself. Placed a competent leader in charge of those left behind. Endured personal hardship in the hike across South Georgia Island. Grade A
Late Execution Phase: Focused on the goal of rescuing the remainder of his expedition until it succeeded. Grade A
Closing Phase: Gave out rewards to some of his men but not to others, sometimes for minor infractions during the almost two-year ordeal. Grade C
Overall Grade B
Better planning would have brought him up to an A and remember, 90% of Project Management is communication and most of that is listening.