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The Fate of the Vasa

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The Fate of Vasa
Team 5- Rosario Puntiel, Tanisha Baptiste, Michael Perrottelli, April Martin, Anna Giambattista

Problem Statement

        When the Vasa sank on August 10, 1968 there wasn’t one sole person to blame for its fate. It was a combination of unfortunate steps taken during the build process that together contributed to the ships ill-fated first and final sail.

        Sweden’s King Gustavus II Adolphus was a key contributor to the disaster for several reasons. Several wars put demand on the King’s navy and therefore caused the King to put pressure on the Stockholm ship builders to build the four contracted ships faster. Adding to the pressure to build faster, the building team also had to deal with the King’s constant changes to the build. These changes were not only sporadic, all dependent on the King’s will, but none were planned for, nor communicated correctly. This often-caused confusion to the building team causing them to make last minute changes that were not part of the original plan.

        Henrik Hybertsson was the Master Shipwright of the project. He was experienced and highly respected. This issue with Hybertsson was that his brain was the master plan behind the building of the ship. All the “plans”, construction methods were kept in his head (as was customary at the time). During the build, Hybertsson became ill and passed. The responsibility of continuing the build fell on his assistants, Hein Jacobsson and Johan Isbrandsson, who first, didn’t have plans to follow since they were in Hybertsson’s head, and second, neither had the experience required to be Master Shipwrights. Add lack of experience to, significant decisions that still needed to be made at the time of leadership transition and the King’s constant changes, communication suffered all the way thru the team.

Perhaps the most significant cause of this tragedy, was the lack of communication from Admiral Fleming on the results of the failed stability test. The test took place prior to loading the ships armament, but even then, it was heeling over to the point it would have capsized. Even with these obvious results that something was wrong, he took no action nor communicated the results of the test to anyone.

Corrective Action Plan

The lack of schematics & Engineer designs was a critical factor in the sinking of the Vasa. The Master Shipwright, Hybertsson fell ill and eventually died. When Hybertsson initially fell ill, his assistants began to slowly transition into running the shipyard. Neither Jacobson nor Isbrandsson had managerial experience and communication between the 2 of them was poor. Upon Hybertsson’s death, Admiral Fleming put Jacobsson in charge of delivering the Casa. At this time there was a large crew working on assembling the ship however, there was little direction given there are no plans or specifications no drawings and no descriptions of the design. As the ship was in the process of being built there were still design changes that were being made and other plans kept evolving. Prior to ordering and cutting materials in beginning to build on the ship the team would have benefited from having written designs in advance. The crew would have benefited from the development of baseline management specification and a designated architect on the team.

There was the built-in complexity of the Vasa organization and the work packages making system interfaces complex. Requirements, design, and implementation processes, procedures, and formal agreements had not been documented. There were multiple approaches from different quarters in solving a common technical risk. The resulting impact to the Vasa Project is in not meeting the schedule, and inefficient implementation due to cultural differences, and drivers with foci that are different from that of the Mission. To avoid this, there should have been clear and concise written out plans as will as a signed agreement between the builders and the King. Upon the death of Hybertsson, these plans could have easily been passed on to his successor and the process could have been picked up seamlessly.

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