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Nehemiah rebuilt the city walls in only 52 days
Nehemiah rebuilt the city walls in only 52 days
September 4, 2015 7:00 AM CDT

Walter at the wall

Full Contact Project Management


Face it: We are at a fork in the road. Which direction will we take? Will we choose principled leadership or simply go for “free stuff?” That’s the question of the day, whether in national elections or even in our own local businesses.

In the Middle East, thousands of years ago, cities had huge walls around them. The walls were high and wide enough for soldiers to use in defending the city. Now, imagine that the wall is no longer there. It has been destroyed and the city sacked and ravaged. A defeated citizenry knows that something must be done before it is attacked again. What to do? Wait for the new king to do something? Hardly! Apparently, he had other projects of a higher priority, which often seems to be the case, doesn’t it?

Well, there was a guy, back then, who took things into his own hands. History says his name was Nehemiah – doesn’t give him a first name. I like to think that it might have been Walter, or Wally, for short.

Wally called a meeting and challenged everyone to attend. And he said something like this:

“Look, the king is broke, and it could be decades before he can help us. Right now, wild animals and vandals can just walk into our city – what remains of it – and have their way. We can’t allow it, although the government seems okay with it. So here’s my plan on how we fix this.

“We fix it ourselves, and here’s how,” he says. “This wall that surrounds the city needs to be rebuilt immediately, but it’s a huge project. So here’s what we do. If each householder takes responsibility for rebuilding the section of wall that’s in front of his own place, which will protect his own property, we’ll get this fixed in no time.”

Did it work? History tells us that the entire project, thousands of feet long, was completed in only 52 days. It was much more efficient, faster and far less costly than any government operation would have been. Just figure it out, and then get out of the way.

How’d they do it? Well, there’s an old saying, “Without a vision, the people perish.” In Wally’s world, that was literally true, because the entire city would have perished if action had not been taken.

During World War II, the country’s focus was on winning. The massive B-24 bomber was a huge part of that. Did you know that Consolidated Aircraft in San Diego, at the height of its production run, was completing one bomber every 59 minutes, around the clock? How does that happen? Leaders in our country knew that our “wall” had been knocked down, and that we were subject to attack – again. We had a big project ahead of us, and it had to be completed, not just on time, but ahead of time. Our people willed this bomber project to happen. Figure it out, and then get the bureaucrats out of the way.

On Sept. 12, 1962, President Kennedy laid down a challenge for the United States to land a man on the moon, and return him safely to earth, by the end of the decade. An amazing challenge, especially when you consider that the United States was actually behind the USSR at that point of the Space Race. To accomplish this, it would be necessary to use new materials, some of which had not even been invented yet. But it was figured out. People got out of the way, and on July 20, 1969, that vision became reality.

The lesson here is that we can’t be afraid to tackle what others might see as an impossible project; afraid to try something new.

Finally, will you always be the principled leader your company and your country need, or will you look for that easier road with all the free stuff?

About the Author

Gary Micheloni is a working project manager, speaker, author, consultant and coach. He has severals years of industry experience, including a background as a licensed general engineering contractor. For further information and insight on the Full Contact Project Management approach, write Coach Gary at


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