Project Management Module 1

Module 1 – Case



Case Assignment

About the Case Study:


In the early morning hours of July 16, 1945, the first nuclear weapon – an A-bomb, in 20th century parlance — was detonated in the New Mexico desert.  Dr. Theodore Taylor was one of the project scientists.  Here, minus some technical details, is his description of such an explosion:


When (a bomb) is detonated, the temperature in the core builds up to several hundred million degrees in one-hundred millionth of a second.  That is many times the temperature at the center of the Sun.  Pressures build up to 100 million atmospheres, and the core begins to expand at five million miles per hour. (Every chemical element) is in there; barium, iodine, cesium strontium, hydrogen, tin, copper, gold…(The initial fireball is) something 12 inches across, expanding faster than anything in our Galaxy.  Conditions there are quite different, perhaps, from anywhere else in the Universe,  unless there are other people who make bombs.  (McPhee, 1973;  pgs. 118-9).


Seventy years ago, we saw the birth of something utterly new;new not only for us humans but also, perhaps, for the entire Universe.  That event was a turning point in human history.  It was, perhaps, the beginning of the end of human history.  The rest of the story is still being written, in places as dissimilar as Pakistan, North Korea and Iran.


The famous project that produced the A-bomb, which moved from untested theory to deliverable weapons in the middle of World War Two, was the Manhattan Project.  At its peak, the project employed 130,000 people, most of whom had no idea what they were doing, and consumed as much energy and materiel as the American automobile industry.  Not only every project manager, but every world citizen, should know about the Project, because it changed every citizen’s life.


The Manhattan Project did not run smoothly.  It’s the classic example of a project succeeding because it had to;  it was simply unimaginable that either Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan would win the War.  Despite its rocky history, however, it’s worthwhile to examine the evolution of the Project, and compare it to the stages of an ideal project, both to appreciate what could have been done better, and to acquire a sense of humility concerning the entire project management enterprise.  It is, after all, amazing what people can accomplish, either with or without report-generation software.


The definitive on-line source concerning the Manhattan Project is provided by (AJ, 2015).  For an overview, you should scan the entire 99 page site. The material is voluminous, but well organized, and tightly edited. The definitive print source is Rhodes (1986; paperback edition 1995), which is now available used , online, for less than one dollar. Anyone with even a passing interest in either management, science, technology or history should own a copy.


About Case 1:

For this case, we will examine the Origination and Initiation (NY Guide, 2002;  Chaps. 3.1 & 3.2) of the Manhattan Project (AJ, 2015; Rhodes, 1995). For information about these phases of the project, please refer to the Module 1 Homepage.

You should not use the “retrieved on” dates shown below.  Rather, you should supply the dates that you yourself viewed the sources.

Required Sources

AJ (2015).  The Manhattan Project: Making the atomic bomb. (Index page.  See the entire site.) Retrieved August 10, 2009 from

NY Guide (2002a). Management’s Guide to Project Success. (Origination and initiation:  Sec 1, 2, 3.1, 3.2) Retrieved from the New York State Chief Information Officer/Office for Technology’s Enterprise Program Management Office, June 6, 2009.

Hillison, D. & Hulett, D. (2004).  Assessing risk probability: Alternative approaches.Retrieved on 3 Feb 2015 from


Wideman, M. (2015).  A serious answer to a serious question:  What are the fundamental differences between project work and operations work?  (Intro page;  See all linked pages.) Retrieved on 7 Feb 2015 from


Wideman, M. (2015b). Project management case study:  The Custom Woodworking Company – Woody 2000 project.  Retrieved on 7 Feb 2015 from


When contemplating something totally new, the alternatives are simple;  either try to do it, or don’t.  In this case, we know which alternative was selected.


For Case 1, write an essay answering the following questions:


Q1;  What were the factors that entered into the decision? Describe and explain.


Q2:  Since the decision involved unknowns, risk estimation was highly subjective.  What factors (e.g., familiarity, manageability) played roles in the estimation process?  Explain.

Assignment Expectations

Integrate your answers to the above questions into a well-constructed essay.   Feel free to use tables and bulleted lists, if appropriate.

The readings do not provide specific answers to every question.  You will need to “fill in the gaps,” using your understanding of the Project’s history, plus the Background Information.

APA Format