Titolo articolo

The Tower of Babel: When Communicating Becomes a Nightmare

L'autore Sergio GEROSA


Originally published as a part of 2008 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – St. Julians, Malta


The history of the Tower of Babel is the classical representation of the project manager more frightening nightmare. According to the Bible, the tower of Babel was one of the first major engineering undertakings of humankind, as well as the first major management failure. This paper starts by analysing the historical myth described in the Genesis from a project management perspectives, highlighting similarities with the day-by-day life of projects.

The project of the Tower failed in several respects: cultural diversity understanding, communication and organization. Team members were not able to talk effectively with each other, and consequently they lacked in coordinating themselves. This deteriorated the relationships, resulting in conflicts and jealousies, with different groups isolating themselves.

In complex organizations, Project Managers are often requested to interact with people coming from very different culture and professional education. Each of them is barely willing to talk a different (professional) language than its own. Very specialised and unintelligible jargons are, on the contrary, used by people to reaffirm their expertise and unique contribution to the project (or to the organization). Communications and relationship networks are critical to project success. Project Managers shall facilitate circulation of clear information throughout the team and toward the customers. And this is, most of the time, a big challenge. Language diversity is, in fact, only the surfacing aspect of  personal (or organization’s) habits of thinking, paradigms, values and beliefs. Project Managers shall carefully interact with all these cultural layers to ensure success of their projects.

Based on his long experience in program management, the author propose his advice on how to manage communications on very complex projects..............