The Panama Canal

As the definition of project management says: «is the application of knowledge, skills, tools and methodologies to plan and control the achievement of the project objectives», here It is a very good example. The Panama canal was built in twenty four years.

The Panama canal was time constrained,  produced a result that did not exist before, and It was tailored to a specific set of requirements, fullfilling the characteristics a project has.

As we have seen, every single project has four phases. In this project there wasn’t the first two. A French man called «Ferdinand de Lesseps» started to build the canal in 1880 because he has already built the «Suez channel», and this was his new goal.He started the project by the executing and controlling phase, without taking into account the planning phase about how he was going to pass over the «Culebra hill». He thought that he could do it as he had already done in the Suez channel but the ground was not the same, so he spent a lot of time and money, reaching a disastrous result.

As a consequence  he had done a wrong resource, time and cost management, even he had not taken into account the risk management, such as landslides or tropical diseases like yellow feber, which caused around six thousands deaths. The project needed now four times more of money than the first time to be done. The french company went bankrupt, and some people of the government gave money to the French businessman without license, so there was a huge problem in the country stopping the construction.

In 1904, The United States of America bought the concession of the canal. Its president Theodore Roosvelt wanted this canal for saving time for its army, as a defensive strategy. He decided to put in charge of the project a chief engineer John Frank Stevens. He had defined a planning phase before starting, and he thouth in putting a lock system to raise and lower ships from a large reservoir 26 metres above sea level to pass over the «Culebra» hill. As well, he did a better resource management because he started to use excavetors and a rail road extracting too much more stones with less men and in less time. Also he took into account the risk management of the tropical diseases signing a doctor to fight against it. He reached to decrease the impact of the disease, using 4000 men. He left the project without finishing it, nobody knew why he had done that.

Finally, a military engineer took the control of the project. George Washington Goethals trained leader and engineer, experienced with locks and canals, and working with the thousands of workers employed on the project, he succeeded in building and opening the Panama Canal in 1914.




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