Keywords: Manhattan Project, project management, nuclear power, nuclear energy, project strategy, knowledge management, scheduling, large–scale projects, science projects, military, project risk, project control, learning organisations
Managing large–scale science and technology projects at the edge of knowledge: the Manhattan Project as a learning organisation
Few projects have had such a profound and lasting effect on the world as the Manhattan Project. Today, after it was approved 70 years ago by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, its legacy is felt in nuclear medicine, military defence, terrorist threats, and the production of energy. What was remarkable about this project was that to succeed it had to push through the frontiers of knowledge in ways that are impressive even by today's standards. This paper includes a short history of the project and the challenges that had to be overcome. But the paper is primarily about a very large organisation that was forced to learn quickly, compress each stage in the project in a race against time, and pass knowledge, which was often incomplete, from one phase to the next. As such, it makes a theoretical contribution to the literature on the management of large–scale science projects and provides insight into the problems that these projects face today.