Monday, August 4, 2014

Winston's projects

Gentlemen, we have run out of money; now we have to think - Winston Churchill

I credit Glen Alleman with that quotation. It brings to mind the zany yet creative way that Winston influenced innovation, technology, and projects in WW II. 

Kennedy's book is good read about some of the major projects -- many led by the British -- that helped win the war. But it also gives some detail to the top-down meddling of Churchill which is still all too familiar in the modern business context.

Of course, today, it's all about amazing military technology that Churchill might have imagined but certainly had no chance of attaining. 

But vis a vis the money -- earned value management (EVM) and all the rest traditional processes not withstanding -- nothing has really changed: large R&D programs have large overruns... F35 Strike Fighter anyone? 

And, it's not only R&D: Build a new nuclear power plant? Bring money!

But perhaps the best example I've read about is the Manhattan-to-Brooklyn bridge, circa 1870's. As recalled by historian David McCullough, the Brooklyn bridge was bleeding edge engineering for it's day, and remains the largest stone-concrete steel wire suspension bridge in the world. But, it's 1870 $7M budget turned into $13M at completion in 1883. 

And all along the way, Winston's admonition -- yet 70 years in the future -- was never truer:
".. now we have to think".