Project Lessons from the Great Escape

Project Lessons from the Great Escape


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


PMIWDC Non-Member Rate

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About the Presentation

The Great Escape from the prison camp Stalag Luft III is widely regarded as one of the most audacious and daring escape attempts of the 20th century. 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? In today’s world business people are grappling with numerous obstacles in planning and executing projects in a climate of rapid changes. What can be learned from this event and put into practice today?

This presentation analyzes how the escape was planned and executed as a project. Everything in Stalag Luft III was set up to prevent escape. The project planning and preparation were hindered everyday by new obstacles. The environment was ripe for a project failure. Yet the escape committee (project team) was able to organize itself and remove each obstacle it faced. Ideas and solutions were tested continuously and refined in a determined atmosphere where everything was thought possible. Throughout the project, no written project plan was ever produced yet planning was done extensively. The escape committee overcame continuous difficulties and ran the project in an agile fashion.

The Great Escape did not follow the traditional blueprint of a construction project. But it had all the hallmarks of a great project, e.g., complex timelines, limited resources, dire situation, and a hostile environment. It required a lot of planning and preparation, and team work.

Paying attention to how historical projects and emerging technologies of the past solved complex problems of the day provides some very valuable insights into how to solve today’s more challenging business problems.

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. This is the story of one of the perceived successes. The presentation juxtaposes the Great Escape story and modern projects so that we can learn how:

  • 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 presentation helps project managers see how the PMBOK Knowledge Areas came into play with project planning and execution.

Corporate Registrations and Sponsorships: 
Event Location

Fairview Park Marriott
3111 Fairview Park Drive
Falls Church, VA, 22042

Agenda and Cost:
Corporate table for 10: $550
Chapter Members: $45
Non-members: $55
Walkins: $60
5:00 PM - Registration Opens
5:00 PM - PMIWDC Members Only Book Club Meeting
5:30 PM - PM Tools
5:30 - Networking Reception & Cash Bar
6:15 - New Member Meet & Greet (Read More)
7:00 - Dinner & Cash Bar
7:45 - Guest Speaker
9:00 - Adjourn
PDUs Available: 
1.00 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.

About the Monthly Dinner Meetings

The PMIWDC Monthly Dinner Meetings are held at the Sheraton Tysons (8661 Leesburg Pike, Tysons, VA 22182), typically on the second Tuesday of each month (subject to change due to holidays and venue/speaker availability). Members and non-members are welcome to join us for the best speakers and networking the Washington, DC area has to offer.

The presentations are educational and informative to those professionals operating in the field of project management and functioning in leadership roles in industry and government. It is also of great value to those looking to step into the field of Project Management and begin their certification process. Each event will present specific learning points focusing on building a talent triangle of technical, leadership, and strategic and business management skills, unique to the presenter's area of expertise and the subject matter discussed while directly relating to improving the practice of managing projects and leading others. At each Monthly Chapter Event certified PMPs can earn 1 Professional Development Unit (PDU).


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