Managing Projects in a Hostile Environment

Managing Projects in a Hostile Environment

Using the case study from the Great Escape


Mark Kozak-Holland, PhD, PMP, IPMA-D


PMIWDC Non-Member Rate

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About the Presentation

The initiation and execution of a project can be difficult enough but in a hostile environment, where everyone is trying to close your project down, a project can run into serious trouble.

This interactive workshop (half-day and full-day versions) probes the difficulties in initiating a project without sponsors, and getting it enough support to get it through early the stage gates. Using the Great Escape case study the workshop looks at the at one of the most audacious and daring escape attempts of the 20th century from the prison camp Stalag Luft III. But as an event in March 1944, set in dire circumstances, what actually happened? How was the escape planned and executed as a project? How did it get around numerous obstacles in a habitat designed to be escape proof? How was the project tracked? If you were faced with similar circumstances, what would you do? In today’s world business people are grappling with numerous obstacles in planning and executing projects in a climate of hostility. Many of these challenges are not unlike those faced by the brave men of Stalag Luft III. If you had gone through such an experience, what would you learn that could serve you in your work today? 

Workshop participants will be given a chance to use just their skills to tackle some of the most daunting project management problems ever faced by a team. They will analyze the escape as a project through the modern lens of the PMBoK nine knowledge areas. Everything in Stalag Luft III was set up to prevent escape. The project planning and preparation were hindered everyday by new risks. The hostile environment was ripe for a project failure. Yet the escape committee (project team) was able to organize itself and mitigate the risks. Ideas and solutions were tested continuously and refined in a determined atmosphere where everything was thought possible. They overcame continuous difficulties and ran the project in an agile way to keep it on schedule, and within the budget and resources available to them.

Through exercises the workshop participants focus on the project charter and all nine PMBOK Knowledge Areas.

Learning Objectives:

You will learn how the lessons learned from the Great Escape can be applied to projects today. Many projects today are initiated with clear objectives, executive sponsorship, and a healthy budget but, still fail. Other projects have no budgets, many obstacles in their way, and succeed. The workshop juxtaposes the Great Escape story and modern projects so that you can learn how:

  • the nine PMBOK Knowledge Areas were used across all project phases, even in less obvious areas like quality and procurement management,
  • the escape committee, under tremendous pressure, inspired the inmates around them to continue a fight considered lost,
  • the camp PoWs were unified to work on this one project, maximizing the work effort, and matching their skill sets against project activities,
  • the escape committee understood the problems facing them and focused slender resources on critical tasks.

Entertaining and full of intriguing historical details, the workshop helps participants see how the PMBOK Knowledge Areas came into play with project planning and execution. Even more important, as you begin to see and understand this impossible situation, you will come to understand how both good and bad decisions were made and how in the end, some measure of success was achieved.

Event Location

Crowne Plaza Hotel
1960 Chain Bridge Road
McLean, , 22102

Agenda and Cost:

8:00 AM - Registration and Continental Breakfast
8:30 AM - Seminar Begins
4:30 PM - Seminar Ends

(Fee includes seminar, materials, breakfast, and lunch)
$300.00 - Member Registration
$325.00 - Nonmember Registration

$325.00 Onsite Member Registration
$350.00 Onsite Nonmember Registration

PDUs Available: 
7.00 PDUs for Certified PMs

About the Speakers

Mark Kozak-Holland, PhD, PMP, IPMA-D


Titanic Lessons for business is from the “Lessons from History” series. As the author behind the series, Mark Kozak-Holland brings years of experience as a consultant who helps Fortune-500 companies formulate projects that leverage emerging technologies. Since 1985 he has been straddling the business and IT worlds making these projects happen. He is a PMP, certified business consultant, the author of several books, and a noted speaker.

Mark has always been interested in tracing the evolution of technology and the 3 industrial revolutions of the last 300 years. Whilst recovering a failed Financial Services project he first used the Titanic analogy to explain to project executives why the project had failed. The project recovery was going to take 2 years and $8m cost versus the original $2m cost and 1 year duration. As a historian, Mark seeks out the wisdom of the past to help others avoid repeating mistakes and to capture time-proven techniques. His lectures on the Titanic project have been very popular at gatherings of project managers and CIOs.

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