A Product Management lesson from the Eiffel Tower


070601-014_1 I gave a talk this week on HR TECH architecture, and I riffed a bit about Eiffel Tower. Have a read of the tower's  official website. The tower is a marvel of engineering ingenuity. It is also beautiful. More about Gustav Eiffel another day.

To think it was built in 1889

  •  It took less than 2 years to put up.
  • 18,038 metallic parts
  • 2,500,000 rivets
  • 300 metres high

All the elements were prepared in Eiffel’s factory located at Levallois-Perret on the outskirts of Paris. Each of the 18,000 pieces used to construct the Tower were specifically designed and calculated, traced out to an accuracy of a tenth of a millimetre and then put together forming new pieces around five metres each. A team of constructors, who had worked on the great metal viaduct projects, were responsible for the 150 to 300 workers on site assembling this gigantic erector set.

During construction, a chunk of the French intelligentsia let it be known they weren't impressed.

We come, we writers, painters, sculptors, architects, lovers of the beauty of Paris which was until now intact, to protest with all our strength and all our indignation, in the name of the underestimated taste of the French, in the name of French art and history under threat, against the erection in the very heart of our capital, of the useless and monstrous Eiffel Tower which popular ill-feeling, so often an arbiter of good sense and justice, has already christened the Tower of Babel

Once it opened at the expo, much of the criticism abated. 


So what is the product management lesson?

  • Selling a bold vision upfront?
  • Hard deadlines are not always a bad thing?
  • Is it about innovative modular service construction methods, (API metaphor or similar)
  • Managing criticism?
  • Speedy delivery?
  • Remote work?
  • Users and customers judge success, not influencers?
  • What is Mathematically sound  can create beauty?
  • How Eiffel learnt from other projects he worked on (Porto Bridge, Statue of Liberty)?

Nope. The Eiffel tower was only supposed to be up for 20 years. Stuff that you build almost always lasts far longer than you imagine. Sometimes that is okay.

BTW, lots of exciting HRTECH going on Paris.  I have more clients in Paris than in any other city. I will be visiting again soon. 


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