Seeking inspiration from the Taj Mahal for project management
What can the Taj Mahal teach us about project management? 
Bilal Khan
21 November 2017

Taj_Mahal_Project-management

The Taj Mahal is the envy and admiration of all lovers around the world.

It is also one of the seven wonders of the world and is listed as a UNESCO heritage site. Taj Mahal means « Crown of Palaces » in English. It is erected at the banks of Yamuna River in the city of Agra, India. It was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in 1631 in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal because he was grief-stricken after his death. It took around 20 years to build it. Todays, it is considered as the finest example of Mughal architecture in India. So, what can the Taj Mahal teach us about project management even though the people in those times didn’t necessarily know about project management as we know today? But they definitely must have project management knowledge in their own language and ways, even though they didn’t use the word ‘project management’ in the 17th century!

In order to build the Taj Mahal, the emperor, Shah Jahan issued a firman or royal decree or a royal mandate. From a project management angle, this official document can be considered as the project charter where the objective and requirements are defined. One can also say that Shah Jahan was the project sponsor. The construction of the Taj Mahal was entrusted to a board of architects and designers under imperial supervision. This is something like the modern-day project steering committee.

One of the major project management challenges while building the Taj Mahal was the foundation. It is an engineering marvel in its own right. Since the Taj Mahal was build on the banks of the river Yamuna, the soils of the riverbank needed to be stabilized as the water table was very high. Due to the considerable load resulting from the heavy mausoleum it was dangerous and not feasible to build it on moist soil. This was a major technical challenge. So huge deep wells were dug to absorb any fluctuations in ground water, they were filled with rubble and wooden slabs were build over them. Hence, the Taj Mahal was built on a very solid foundation which is still standing today for more than 350 years!

The fascinating aspect about building the Taj Mahal was the materials required to build it. The Taj Mahal is build using white marble and decorated by 30 different types of precious and semi-precious stones on an intricate layout. These materials were sourced from all over Asia and India. And, more than 20 000 artisans and laborers from all over Asia and Europe worked on the Taj Mahal. The Mughal engineers where definitely good resource managers. In those days, traditional Mughal building practice didn’t allow future alterations. So, the engineers and artisans were obliged to get things right the first time. So, it is essential that the right and skillful resource is allocated to the right task at the right time. Also, around 1000 elephants were used to support the transportation and construction. So, we can deduce that the Mughal engineers and designers were not only good project manages but also good resource manager.

Its building cost a total of 32 million rupees, today that is less than 1.3 million dollars. Apart from the mausoleum the Taj Mahal is a part of a vast complex which consists of a gateway, a mosque, a guest house and a sprawling beautiful garden. The Taj Mahal is definitely a marvel of design and engineering whose builders possessed good project management skills and methodologies.