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Managing in the Face of Meddling Stakeholders

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This workshop looks at the complex process of gathering requirements from multiple stakeholders. It examines how requirements (functional and non functional) need to be carefully balanced so that one does not overshadow the other. It juxtaposes the project that designed and built Titanic and modern projects, examining the difficulties in managing principal stakeholders and the sponsor through the requirements process. Often they can unwittingly compromise the project by actions taken over requirements.

The shipping company White Star had a mission to meet competitive pressures by launching three new super liners to service transatlantic travel. The fact that White Star developed a new business strategy and embraced an emerging technology underscores the similarities to today’s challenge of rolling out new projects. But as the project team went through the process of gathering and managing requirements, both functional and non functional, compromises were made to this process by naval architects. They were pursuing the sponsor’s project mantra “to create the ultimate passenger (first class) experience.” In fact, inept project management and the inability to control stakeholder meddling allowed major compromises to be made in every project stage — from design to construction, to testing, and right into implementation.

The workshop makes a very strong case that the causes leading to the sinking of Titanic are very similar to reasons why today’s projects fail. In many ways Titanic’s project team should have succeeded because of the attention they paid to risks and minimizing these. For example, by:

  • investing in a pilot model to analyze exposure to the possibility of loss and identify risks;
  • looking closely at the risks in operation, based on experience, to identify mitigation strategies; and
  • employing safety features to reduce risk.


But as the project was executed, decisions were made that compromised those risk reduction features in addition to strong business pressures to “go live” before completing the testing phase. In the end, the belief that Titanic was unsinkable contributed to its demise in much the same way as a modern project is marketed to its target user base and expectations are not met due to short changing the project process.

This workshop steps through the construction of Titanic, highlighting significant decisions made and interjecting the business influences that contributed to the fate of the project. The Titanic story is one of recent history’s most well-known project failures. They thought Titanic was unsinkable but they were wrong!

Designed under the Lessons-from-History series, this workshop will breathe new life into your project management learning. The workshop takes lessons from the historical project and enables you to recognize the parallels in your own organization and projects. You will undertake a range of practical exercises throughout the day that allow you to "get into the shoes" of key project members, understand their profiles and motivation, enabling you to understand the decisions they made. This allows for various what-if scenarios and from this you can then relate lessons back and apply new learning to your own projects.

This fully interactive one day workshop incorporates principles from leading project management frameworks such as the PMBoK Guide and PRINCE2, but also demonstrates that successful project management does not need sophisticated tools. Upon the successful completion of this workshop, you will be able to better utilize project management and identify warning signs that could take a project off track, and how to counter these.


You will learn how the lessons learned from Titanic’s project and subsequent disaster can be applied to contemporary projects. Upon the successful completion of this workshop, the attendees will be able to identify warning signs at each phase of the project that could take it off track including the following:

  • How a project business case needs to be constructed that factors in the future dependencies on the solution.
  • How during requirement phase non-functional requirements get overshadowed by functional requirements.
  • How during the requirements/design phases the executive sponsor can unwittingly compromise the project.
  • How architects (project sponsors) can fail to stand by principles when under pressure.
  • How decisions during the project can have a catastrophic impact in the operation.
  • How project over confidence can invalidate some of the later project phases (testing, implementation).


Entertaining and full of intriguing historical details, the workshop helps project managers to work out strategies to deal with these warning signs.


Managing Projects in the Face of Meddling Stakeholders is appropriate for all members of the project team, with an emphasis on project managers, sponsors


There is no prerequisite for this course.


You will receive a course binder containing course notes, exercises, and suggested solutions and a copy of the book Project Management Blunders: Lessons from the Project that Built, Launched and Sunk Titanic.


This workshop is based on the book Project Management Blunders by Dr. Mark Kozak-Holland. Please watch the brief video below for a description of the case study around which this workshop is centered.


course info

Course ID: 1401
Course Level: Intermediate
Duration: 1 day

upcoming sessions

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PMI Talent TriangleThe following table provides the breakdown of the professional development units (PDUs) for this course aligned with the PMI Talent TriangleTM.

  Tech. Ldrshp. Strat. & Bus.
PMP 1.25 4.5 1.25
PgMP 1.25 4.5 1.25
PfMP 1.25 4.5 1.25
PMI-ACP 1.25 4.5 1.25
PMI-SP 0 4.5 1.25
PMI-RMP 1 4.5 1.25
PMI-PBA 1.25 4.5 1.25

The three columns in the above table are Technical Project Management, Leadership, and Strategic & Business Management.

Other Credits

Other professional (re)certification credits are available, including:

  • Certified Business Analyst Professionals (CBAPs) earn 7 CDUs (Category 2B)
  • Certified Software Quality Engineers (CSQEs) earn 1 RUs
  • CIPS Information Systems Professionals (ISPs) earn 7 Learning Credits
  • CIPS Information Technology Certified Professional (ITCPs) earn 7 Learning Credits