Project Management Institute

Project management in history and arts--Italian contribution



Traces of project management can be found in the deeds of the great protagonists of history and the arts. In this paper, two cases from Italy will be reviewed. The first case is the expedition of Christopher Columbus to discover how the Italian navigator led a very innovative adventure. In this case, the behaviors of Columbus during the preparation and the implementation of his trip are analyzed. The second case is the way of working of one of the most important artists of the Renaissance, Michelangelo Buonarroti, to discover the value of hidden teamwork in a job that seems to be for single-players. In this case, the problems faced by Michelangelo during some of his most important artwork are analyzed together with the solutions that were found.

This paper shows how great results in the past, before project management arose as a discipline, have been reached through the practice of project management.

Short biographies of Columbus and Michelangelo and a brief introduction to the Renaissance are included.


Project management as a discipline was born in the 20th century, but some of its traces can be identified already in the behavior and work of the great protagonists of history and the arts. This paper, through an analysis of two cases, proposes an Italian contribution in the search for these traces of project management in the past. In the following, we will analyze the adventure of Christopher Columbus in an effort to figure out what behaviors have been crucial to his business and which of these can be applied to the teachings of project management. Then we will analyze the methods of one of the greatest Italian artists, Michelangelo Buonarroti, and more generally, during the Renaissance, identifying some lessons learned that can be useful for project managers.

Short biographies of Columbus and Michelangelo and a brief introduction to the Renaissance are included.


Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus was born, the eldest of four children, in Genoa in August 1451 by Domenico Colombo and Susanna Fontanarossa.

By the time he reached the age of 14, Columbus, a resident of Savona, began maritime navigation. After serving under Renato D’ Anjou, he began an apprenticeship as a merchant in the service of the Di Negro and Spinola families of Genoa.

In his youth, he sailed to Greece, Portugal, England, Ireland, and Iceland. He then moved to Lisbon on behalf of the Centurion family.

In 1480, he married Filipa Moniz Perestrello, daughter of Bartholomew Perestrello, governor of Porto Santo, with whom he had a son, Diego. The family lived in Porto Santo and Madeira, where Columbus devoted himself unsuccessfully to trade on his own. Then the family moved to Lisbon, where his brother Bartolomeo worked as a mapmaker and perhaps at this time Columbus began to think of a short route to the Indies. In 1485, Columbus lost his wife.

From the readings of the period and from interviews with sailors, Columbus was convinced that over the Azores there was another land, and this land was Asia. Among the most important accounts of this period is Paolo Toscanelli 's letter to the King of Portugal, where the Florentine physician evaluated viable a route westward to the Indies. In private audience, Columbus then petitioned King John II of Portugal to fund the journey by sea to Asia; however, the king rejected the proposal after consulting with his own experts and advisors.

Then Columbus went to Castile to seek financiers, meeting with the Duke Medina Sidonia and then by delivering the proposal to the Queen by the Duke of Medinaceli.

Then he went to Cordoba to talk to the royal treasurer, Alfonso de Quintanilla , and lived in the town, where the following year he met Ferdinand II of Aragon and his wife Isabella, rulers of Spain. Columbus presented them his project to reach “Catai” (North China) and “Cipango” (Japan) by sea.

Between 1486 and 1487 a committee chaired by Father Hernando de Talavera, confessor of the Catholic kings, to consider the possibility for a successful journey. The verdict came only at the end of 1490, when the commission vetoed the proposal. In those years, Columbus had another son, Fernando, with a woman that Columbus did not marry.

Through his brother, Columbus tried to propose his plan to the rulers of England and France, without success.

To please the King of Spain, Columbus participated in the war for the reconquest of Granada for six months, which ended on January 2nd 1492. In the same year, Columbus, with the support of Father Perez, personal confessor of the queen, revived the project to the kings of Spain. The contributions of the Geraldini Bishop Alexander, who was also the Queen's confessor and personal friend of Columbus and his brother Antonio, were decisive. At the insistence of Geraldini, the Queen was persuaded to finance the trip.

The contract was signed on April 17th 1492. Three caravels were set up, two of which, the Santa Maria and the Pinta, had square sails and one, the Nina, with a lateen sail. Ninety sailors were recruited, with a commitment to clear all legal judgments outstanding against them. The agreement was also to leave from the port of Palos. The departure took place on August 3rd at 6 o'clock in the morning. The ships sailed until September 6th, when it stopped at La Gomera, in the Canary Islands. Then the ships sailed until 2 o'clock in the morning on October 12th 1492, when Rodrigo de Triana, aboard the Pinta, distinguished a coast. On the morning of October 12th, the caravels were able to find a gap in the reef and land on an island that Columbus named San Salvador.

After this first trip that had yielded gold, tobacco, and some parrots to Colombus, there were many days of celebration in Seville, Cordoba, and Barcelona, where Columbus was received by the king with triumphal honors, so as to induce him to make a new expedition with 17 ships and 1,200 men.

Columbus made two more trips, always supported by the King of Spain, but all with results not particularly lucky. Then the Genoese navigator came in disagreement with the court for the management of lands discovered and, after the death of Isabella, was not even welcomed anymore.

Christopher Columbus died in Valladolid on May 20th 1506 of a heart attack. His remains are preserved in Seville.

(Biographical material about Christopher Columbus is prepared according to Taviani, 2001 and Wikipedia.)

Michelangelo Buonarroti

To understand the importance and the life of Michelangelo, a brief introduction to the Renaissance, the artistic movement in which he lived and acted, is necessary.


The term Renaissance refers to the period of history that began in Italy in the mid-14th century and continued into the next century, characterized by a rediscovery of Greek and Latin classics, the flourishing of the arts and literature, science, and culture and in general civic life. The Renaissance, an expression of Humanism, expanded differentiating disciplines in the arts and culture with broad resonances in every area of life and human activity. This period lasted up to the end of 16th century. We talk about this period of history as a revolution that has opened the way to modern civilization as progressive era of enlightenment in contrast with the Middle Ages. The most visible aspect is the return to the ancient aspects of the classical world, to the civilization of Ancient Greece and Rome, which, rather than being a paradox, is a sort of national levied for the Italian cities as resurgence of a political greatness gone but not forgotten. The reference to classical antiquity is also seen as a return to the original and to the natural, against political, moral, and religious corruption. The classical period was much esteemed because they were seen to faithful to the real and to the human. Also the merit of having been able to translate and express the essential character of nature in an exemplary many has been attributed to the ancient Greeks and Romans.

This movement, born in Florence, expanded throughout Europe and the very birth of national monarchies in Europe is seen as a consequence of this movement.

The new vision of the world, brought about by the Renaissance and by Humanism, launched a new campaign of exploration, which led to the discovery of new countries, new ways and, as noted above, even new continents.

The Renaissance had its heyday in Italy, where there were also the best results both in the field of the arts and in the field of letters. The impact of this movement was not only qualitative, but also quantitative. It is difficult to estimate which part of the Italian artistic heritage is due to the Renaissance, but every city in Italy has important works from the Renaissance, and many have the greatest museums in the world.

Among the leading exponents of the Italian Renaissance are Machiavelli, Savonarola , Pico della Mirandola, Torquato Tasso, Ludovico Ariosto, Giovanni Battista Vico, Giotto, Ghirlandaio , Donatello, Poliziano , Pinturicchio, Botticelli, Perugino,Leon Battista Alberti, Brunelleschi, Bramante, Raffaello (Raphael), Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti.

Michelangelo biography

Michelangelo was a sculptor, painter, architect, and poet. One of the major figures of the Italian Renaissance, he was recognized, already in his time, as one of the greatest artists of all time. He was also frequently mentioned in the works of the great artists of his period (Camesasca, 1966).

Michelangelo was born March 6th 1475 in Caprese, in Val Tiberina near Arezzo, by Ludovico di Leonardo Buonarroti Simoni, the mayor of the castle of Chiusi and Caprese and Francesca di Neri del Miniato.

The Buonarroti family was native to Florence, but they were in Caprese for business reasons. Michelangelo, second son of the couple's children, was the first to undertake an artistic career, because his family was part of the Florentine nobility, possessing, among other things, a shield of arms that is heraldic insignia and a chapel in the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence.

At the time of Michelangelo's birth the family was going through a time of economic hardship, which profoundly influenced the character and personality of the young Michelangelo, who always took care of the economic well-being of his family throughout his lifetime.

Later the family moved to Settignano near Florence, a village of stonemasons where a kind of grey stone called “pietra serena” was extracted and used for centuries in the most important buildings in Florence. At that time, the nurse of Michelangelo was a daughter and wife of stonemasons, which probably led Michelangelo to consider sculpture as his preferred art.

As a younger son of a noble family, an ecclesiastical or military career opened to him; however, because of his strong artistic inclination was evident early on in life. In 1487, at the age of 12, he came to the workshop of Domenico Ghirlandaio, where he was involved in the creation of the frescoes in the Tornabuoni Chapel in Santa Maria Novella in Florence.

Before the end of the three-year educational period, Michelangelo moved to the Giardino di San Marco, a center of higher education in arts, economically supported by Lorenzo the Magnificent and supervised by Bertoldo di Giovanni, who was a direct student of Donatello.

Subsequently, he was received directly into the Medici residence, where he met some of the greatest personalities of his time, such as great artists and two future popes.

His works, The Madonna of the Steps and the Battle of the Centaurs, belong to this period.

After the death of Lorenzo de Medici, Michelangelo moved to an Augustinian convent where he studied the anatomy of corpses from a hospital enclosed in the convent.

So Michelangelo, as a result of political turmoil in Florence, fled first to Venice and then to Bologna, where he completed the Arca of San Domenico.

Then he returned to Florence, where he created the Cupido Dormiente (Sleeping Cupid), a sculpture that was made with an antique look by the commitment and then was sold as an archaeological find to a cardinal in Rome. When the fraud was discovered, Michelangelo was called to Rome at the Papal court. In Rome, Michelangelo was realized as a sculptor, creating, among other sculptures, the Pietà, a work that established him as the greatest sculptor of the period at the age of 22. In 1501 he obtained his first commission directly by a pope of fifteen statues of saints for the Cathedral of Siena, although in the end he realized only four statues with a massive use of assistants. Then he returned to Florence where he created, among others, the David, a work that became the symbol of the lordship of Florence and was placed in the place of greatest symbolic value: Piazza della Signoria.

In 1504, the Sultan of Constantinople proposed a deal with the artist to design a bridge over the Golden Horn, between Galata and Pera in Istanbul, even though the bridge was not realized.

In the following period, Michelangelo was engaged by the popes in the creation of the Tomb of Julius II and in the decoration of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the works that we discuss in detail below.

After the end of the decoration of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo worked on many fronts, even disregarding the rare exclusivity agreements he had taken.

Among the many works, we must remember the following:

  • in 1528 he received the Florence office of General Governor for the Fortifications and took charge of the new defensive plans of the city.
  • in 1538 took charge of the restructuring of the Piazza del Campidoglio in Rome.
  • between 1535 and 1541, he painted the back wall of the Sistine Chapel with images of the Great Flood.
  • in 1542, commissioned by the pope, he created the decoration of the pope's private chapel , the Cappella Paolina.

In the last decades of his life, Michelangelo devoted himself primarily to architectural works and urban planning, as well as poetry.

Among other works, he designed the facade and courtyard of the Palazzo Farnese and restructured the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli in the Baths of Diocletian in Rome.

He died in Rome February 18th 1564.

Case Study

Analysis of Columbus's Behaviors:

The deed of Columbus is to be considered innovative because it answers to two of the main topics of innovation:

  • never done before
  • the world was changed after that (from Middle Ages to Modern Ages)

We must focus on how he managed the adventure and the stakeholders in an innovative contest as a sea of troubles.

The story can be summarized as follows, then, from main facts, we will identify the winning behaviors.

Christopher Columbus, Genoese navigator, at the end of the fifteenth century had the innovative idea that the earth was round and that therefore it would be possible to reach the Indies by sailing westward (at that time the lands around India were called “Indie,” the plural of India).

He decided to try the adventure and then turned to all the courts of Europe to apply for funding.

Finally, he convinced Isabella of Castile, Queen of Spain, and thus he had the necessary funding.

He ordered the building of three caravels and, in the summer of 1492, he departed from Palos de la Frontera.

During the trip he changed his route with respect to the planned one, after observing the behavior of birds, and underwent a mutiny, but he was also strong for his competence and expertise, negotiating a further period of time to achieve the goal.

On October 12th of the same year, the three ships reached the island, which was called San Salvador, discovering the Americas.

And so the Third Age of mankind began.

We must focus on what made the initiative of Christopher Columbus a winning characteristic. Some salient features deserve to be analyzed in detail.

Traces of project management: You might think that the idea of Colombus has been a winning element. This is not true; in fact, many others at the time of Columbus, and even before, had had the same idea. Therefore, it must be clear that the winning element was not the idea itself but rather the determination to be successful in pursuing it, in other words a “strong focus on results.”

This feature is even more evident when you consider that Columbus, once he identified the Spanish rulers to be potential lenders of the expedition, worked in a number of ways to convince them. It is said that Christopher Columbus, to convince Isabella of Castile, became her lover. Likely the risk has been offset by the frequent absences of the king of Spain, Ferdinand II of Aragon, and the opportunities that the relationship presented.

In addition, to acquire the favor of the King, Colombus attended by his side in the conquest of Granada. In other words, he risked his life in a war.

This is a true management of risks and opportunities, with the audacity (weighted) of the innovator.

Traces of Project Management: The trip was organized on a small fleet of three caravels, i.e., light ships, and suitable for sailing on calm seas, like the ocean during the summer. This feature is married with the start in the second part of the summer, when the wind and sea conditions were the most favorable for the trip.

This choice is characterized by a strong focus on the goal: nothing more than the strictly necessary, sizing of vessels and the entire project to a minimum, and departure in favorable period. In short, there were no “tin pants,” no unnecessary costs, and no unnecessary that would never have allowed the expedition.

This is how Columbus managed and controlled the costs of the project, in order not to exceed the fixed budget.

Traces of Project Management: On October 7th, Christopher Columbus saw some birds heading southwest, so he decided to change the route and steer the fleet in that direction.

This attitude is a symptom of an open mind, one that is willing to recognize clues that lead to a solution, even if contrary to expectations. Such flexibility allowed Columbus to change his own plans quickly and promptly, even at the cost of admitting mistakes in the initial design.

Traces of Project managment: On October 10th the exasperated crew mutinied.

The reaction of Christopher Columbus was:

1. Negotiate. In a context of extreme difficulty, the Genoese navigator did not get discouraged and decided not to surrender, to avoid trials of strength and dangerous conflicts, and thus to negotiate.

2. A negotiation is courageous and highly goal-oriented. It is not a trade oriented to the minimum: “well take the ship but do not throw me overboard.” Instead it is a negotiation based on competence, courage, and above all, is extremely goal-oriented: “Give me three more days!”…Two days after Rodrigo de Triana sighted land.

Both the relationship of Columbus with the Spanish rulers and the one with the crew, showed his capabilities in managing stakeholders. In particular, his response to mutiny highlighted interpersonal skills in managing the team, showing leadership and abilities in influencing and decision making.

And luck?

A little bit of luck is always needed, but it is not proven that it was decisive.

In fact there is no proof of the contrary. There is no evidence that someone before Christopher Columbus tried the expedition and failed for a lack of luck.

So, no excuses!

Analysis of Michelangelo's Methods:

Michelangelo was a single case among artists of the Renaissance. The most important artists of the Renaissance had big “Botteghe” (workshops), which are sorts of laboratories where many people worked. For example, in a bottega of a famous painter, there are mature painters, helpers, and boys studying as painters. In some cases, in a single bottega, there are more than fifty workers. Michelangelo grow in the workshop of Domenico Ghirlandaio and then in the workshop of Bertoldo di Giovanni, where he learned the techniques of painting and sculpture. But, once he became an artist, he decided not to have to workshop. He was moody and he had a terrible temper; he was very critical of the work of others; he had a harsh character and a tormented spirit; he was a worker to the extreme; superb with others, displeased with himself; obsessed with death and the salvation of the soul. So he preferred to work alone.

On a scale of artists in favor of and against teamwork, Michelangelo is on the extreme, against the teamwork altogether. This is why it is interesting to analyze how Michelangelo faced the most difficult moments of his career.

The Sistine Chapel

The Sistine Chapel is a church built by Pope Sixtus IV for solemn celebrations and for hosting the conclave. It was built from 1475 to 1483 in place of Cappella Magna inside the Vatican, which was designed by the architect Giovannino De’ Dolci . It is a large chapel, over forty meters long, and as tall as a seven-story building, built according to the proportions of the Temple of Jerusalem. To decorate the walls the greatest artists of that period were called upon: Botticelli, Perugino, Pinturicchio, Ghirlandaio and others, who painted scenes from the Bible, from Moses to the life of Jesus.

Following a large crack in the ceiling painted with a starry sky, which opened in 1504, there was the need to repaint the ceiling. In 1508, Pope Julius II decided to entrust the task to Michelangelo to decorate the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, at the suggestion of Bramante and other artist rivals to make him fall into a trap, believing Michelangelo would not be able to accomplish that task.

Michelangelo was to paint the entire ceiling with a fresco technique, which requires the wall to be prepared with several layers: 1) ritaffo for the first wall preparation, 2) arriccio which is the last layer, and 3) tonachina which is the plaster that is given in one day, on which the artist paints, so colors are absorbed by the fresh plaster and harden with the plaster remaining part of the wall.

For the design, preparatory cartoons are used and then, through them, are transferred on the plaster that immediately after, is colored.

(Material about the Sistine Chapel is gathered from Blech and Doliner, 2008)


Michelangelo quickly realized that the original idea of representing the apostles was simplistic and too poor compared to the size of the ceiling then proposed and agreed with Pope Julius II to paint scenes from the Old Testament, from the Creation to Noah. The iconographic project was discussed and elaborated together with the theologians of the Pope.

The work of Michelangelo began May 10th 1508 and ended October 31st 1512.

The first part of chapel ceiling was painted from 1508 to 1510. Then, the second part was completed from 1510 to 1512, after a visit from Pope Julius II, prelates, and other artists.

During the Pope's visit in 1510, Michelangelo realized that the figures seen from the bottom were small and then decided to paint fewer large scale figures on the second half of the ceiling.


Renaissance artists used to work in collaboration with many helpers. The artist directed the system overall, while higher level helpers made the main figures, and those of the lower level completed the works’ minor details. Finally, the artist took care of the finishing work where necessary. It must be noted that when we talk of helpers, we refer to minor artists, as young or less capable painters, working in the artist workshop. Added to this was the work of the laborers who took care of all the tasks of preparing and support which did not affect the work. It was team work, following the relationship shown in Exhibit 1.

Who did what: Table for standard artists in the Renaissance

Exhibit 1 – Who did what: Table for standard artists in the Renaissance.

For example, Raphael used a structure with more than fifty artists. For the first phase, which involved the construction of preparatory drawings and initial processing of the wall, Michelangelo took advantage of the collaboration of Piero Rosselli.

During the work on the Sistine Chapel ceiling Michelangelo had the collaboration of two assistants to prepare the walls and low-level laborers to prepare the scaffolding and to grind the colors. From more recent studies, it seems that the collaborators were more than two, even if not many, depending on the phases, from one to three more than the two. It also seems that some of them have been helpful for evaluations of typical aspects of the painting like perspective. During the implementation phases, employees found themselves working in a role totally subordinate to Michelangelo, without the freedom to represent scenes and with very detailed cartoons to follow. In the last phase, some employees were engaged only to perform very modest activities.

The relationships between workers and tasks to be performed between 1508 and 1511 and between 1511 and 1512 are shown in Exhibit 2 and Exhibit 3, respectively.

“Who did what” table for Michelangelo in Sistine Chapel 1508–1511

Exhibit 2 – “Who did what” table for Michelangelo in Sistine Chapel 1508–1511

It must be noted that, in this case, high level helpers were famous artists.

“Who did what” table for Michelangelo in Sistine Chapel 1511–1512

Exhibit 3 – “Who did what” table for Michelangelo in Sistine Chapel 1511–1512

Traces of Project Management: These structures are responsibility assignment matrices. Maybe they were not represented in this way, but the basic concept is a clear division of tasks and responsibilities.

An accountability structure implies that the organization was clear, and that the work to be performed and organizational structure have been defined (a work breakdown structure). Probably this was done in an implicit way, however it took place.

Traces of Project Management: With a very conservative estimate, considering only two helpers were used for the duration of the work, the contribution of employees is estimated to be eight years of work of one man. So if Michelangelo had done all the work himself, he probably would not have finished the Sistine Chapel ceiling before 1520. It is evident that the contribution of the helpers significantly reduced the time needed to complete the work.

Although the case of transition from a “single resource team” to a little group of resources was a singular case, it could be considered a technique of time management, which, by adding resources, has resulted in a reduction of the schedule—a sort of “crashing” in the sixteenth century.


1. Later, Michelangelo was called to paint the Last Judgment on the back wall of the chapel. For the ceiling, Michelangelo was paid for the entire job, including the costs of the construction site, while for the Last Judgment Michelangelo was paid for his work while expenses were paid by the Pope. For this reason, Michelangelo was able to buy the best colors available for the Last Judgment, with differences in color that are still visible today.

2. During a visit in 1510, Raphael was so impressed with the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel that he added a character, Heraclitus, in the style and likeness of Michelangelo to the frescoes he was painting in the Vatican rooms.


During the implementation of the Flood scene, the fresco started to rot, which damaged shapes and colors. Michelangelo, together with Pope Julius II, turned to the architect Giuliano da Sangallo, who identified the problem to be a lime too rich in water and prepared a new and different blend that dried more slowly but kept better by Jacopo di Lazzaro, also called Indico.

Traces of Project Management: In this case, faced with a problem, Michelangelo turned to the client/sponsor (Pope Julius II) and together they decided to turn to an experienced consultant in the field. The use of an expert consultant for a specific problem proved an excellent solution.

As both customer and sponsor of the project, the pope's investment was very high. For this reason, Michelangelo got the right help to solve the problem by exploiting the engagement of this key stakeholder.

Tomb of Pope Julius II

As was the custom of the time, Pope Julius II planned his grave, with the intention of making a large tomb. The project was assigned to Michelangelo. In 1505, Julius II sent Michelangelo to Carrara with two servants to choose the marble, with an initial idea of a complex of more than forty statues. The work was then suspended for the Sistine Chapel project until March 6, 1513, when a new contract for 32 statues was signed. In 1515, Michelangelo accepted two new works: the facade of San Lorenzo and the church of the Medici in Florence on the commission of Pope Leo X, always with the intention of doing all the work alone. For the tomb of Julius II, two new contracts were then signed by Michelangelo and the heirs of Julius II—one in 1518 for a period of eight years and another in 1520 for 20 statues to be built in nine years. Michelangelo continued to work on several works at the same time and without the use of helpers. In this way the works were advancing very slowly, and the results were poor. One result was that in 1520 the contract for San Lorenzo was terminated by clients. In 1523 a new pope was elected and he signed new contracts with Michelangelo for the sacristy of San Lorenzo and four Medici tombs. The tomb of Julius II continued to progress very slowly and in the end the work was heavily resized.

When Michelangelo finally decided to make use of helpers to complete the work, the execution of ornamental elements was delegated to Francesco Amadori, also called Urbino, and the completion of five statues was entrusted to Michelangelo's longtime collaborator Raffaello da Montelupo. After many vicissitudes, and as many as six different projects, the work was completed in 1545. Eventually only seven statues were made, of which only one, the Moses, was entirely by Michelangelo.

Michelangelo tried to do all the work alone, but in the end he realized that if he had not enlisted the help of assistants, he would not be able to complete the job.

The work started in 1505 and was completed in 1545, though in between there were several breaks and a significant reduction in scope. In fact, the project departed from a first draft of more than 40 statues to get to the final result of only seven statues. Michelangelo also had to pay penalties both for delays and for work not performed. This is not a job completed in a correct way.

Traces of Project Management—Lesson learned: Should he have resorted to helpers before? If Michelangelo had used the help of additional employees, he probably would have completed the work. Deferring a decision that seemed inevitable did not have other effects other than a delay and a reduction of the scope. Mainly in a case like this there wasn't any problem of budget.

Maybe Michelangelo had in part already learned the lesson. In fact, in 1514, Michelangelo accepted the commission from some Roman nobles to sculpt a risen Christ. Michelangelo sent a statue still to be completed to his Roman helpers. The statue was completed by Pietro Urbano and Federico Frizzi, but Michelangelo did not like the result, even though the clients were rather satisfied. Perhaps the dissatisfaction with the outcome prevented Michelangelo from relying on helpers for the tomb of Julius II. This we will never know.

(Information about the tomb of Pope Julius II is garnered from Baldini, 1973)


Christopher Columbus Case

In summary, some of the features of Christopher Columbus that have allowed him to successfully complete his highly innovative adventure, as only the expedition in search of a new route can be, are:

  • Pursuing his idea with a strong orientation to the objective;
  • Managing risks and opportunities;
  • Right sizing, no oversizings and useless weightings;
  • Having an open mind, to recognize the clues for any errors and quickly adjust plans without fixating on the initial idea;
  • Not giving up when faced with difficulties; negotiating with courage; and always being target oriented.

Michelangelo Case

The artist's work is considered to be a lonely job. Further analysis, with particular attention to the case of the artist Michelangelo, who was more reluctant to make use of collaborators, shows that in fact many of the greatest artists made use of working structures, even Michelangelo, which by his nature he would have rather done without. Michelangelo tried not to use helpers as much as he was able, but, at the end, he decided to do so in order to complete his most famous artworks. This way of working was very common in the Renaissance, when many important artworks had been realized, mainly in Italy. These are exceptional cases of teamwork, often made by teams organized at various levels and with dozens of workers. It should be noted also how the roles and the rules were very well defined.

The artist is the key figure and without him it would not be possible to achieve similar levels of beauty, but without the staff, these artists would have produced many fewer works. If this were the case, there would be a lot less art and beauty in the world.

Conclusion: Teamwork HELPS!

It helps to complete the work; it helps to meet the schedule, or otherwise limit delays.


Baldini U. (1973). Michelangelo scultore. Milano: Rizzoli.

Blech B., Doliner R. (2008) I segreti della Sistina. Milano: Rizzoli.

Camesasca E. (1966). Michelangelo pittore. Milano: Rizzoli.

Cristoforo Colombo. (2014). Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved from

Taviani, P.E. (2001). L'avventura di Cristoforo Colombo. Bologna: Il Mulino.

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI or any listed author.

© 2014, Alessandro Marcenaro, PMP
Originally published as a part of the 2014 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – Dubai, UAE



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