The Inca Empire: Project Management Legacy

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The Inca Empire: Project Management Legacy

The Inca Empire was one of the most extraordinary, monumental and organized civilization in America. Their domain extended from northern Ecuador to central Chile. Its capital was called Cuzco, which in Quechua means “Navel of the World”. By the time of the Spanish arrival this city had 100,000 inhabitants. Their chief god was the Sun; called “Inti”, this is also the second Peruvian currency. The foundation of the Empire was attributed to the Inca Manco Capac in the thirteenth century. The last emperor Atahualpa was executed by Francisco Pizarro in 1533 in the city of Cajamarca. The Inca emperors were able to maintain and develop its vast domain, due to the concern for the welfare and happiness of his subjects. They did not know about hunger and injustice; their system had been called paternalistic Empire because it was well organized. The Inca culture was the result of the merger of three cultures that preceded it: Tiahuanaco culture (1000-1300 d. BC) in the region of Lake Titicaca (Peru-Bolivia), the Nazca culture of the southern of Peru, Mochica culture-Michu Ina, in the north coast.

The former Inca territory, Peru, is located in the southern hemisphere, with 6,940 km of borders (Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Ecuador). Its total area included its islands in the Pacific Ocean and Lake Titicaca is 1’285, 216 km2, with a coastline of 3,079.5 kilometers and a maritime domain of 321.87 kilometers along the coast. (Rostoworowski de Diez Canseco, 1999) Inca is a word that comes from the Quechua language and means “king” or “lord”. Inca is the name given to pre-Columbian rulers of Cuzco. They established a vast empire in the Andes about the fifteenth century, shortly before the Spanish conquest.

The name also applies to all subjects of the Inca Empire. The Inca civilization was established to be the final and most developed of the ancient Andean civilizations. The Incas were great conquerors, Their Empire was situated partly on the Andes, and to better manage such an extensive territory, the Incas were divided into four regions that departed from the capital, Cuzco. These four regions were: Chinchasuyu, Antisuyu Contisuyu and Collasuyu and they were divided into provinces and cities, composed of “ayllu”.

Inca Engineering and Architecture

The Incas were master engineers; they developed their own architectural style. They were able to adapt the city structures of their conquered people in order to organize a more controllable empire. They created an excellent communication network that helped them in terms of cost, time, resources and customer satisfaction. This communication network was over 6,000 km long, with roads and poles. News took five days to travel the 2,000 km between Quito and Cuzco. These roads were not paved such as the modern ones but they were prepared to match the needs of the terrain. In swampy areas the road was raised with earth and in desert zones it was delineated with lines of stone. Along the road were centers and inns to cater to the needs of the travelers. (Malpass, 1996) Bridges were another creation that helped them to build successful projects.

These were built to cross rivers and stairways were cut to rise up steep hillsides. They were simple suspension bridges over canyons to provide access over the empire as a part of the road system. They used natural fibers from the local vegetation to build them. With these fibers they created ropes reinforced with wood strong enough to carry Spaniards while riding their horses after they arrived to the area. The roads were built by the purics or laborers helped by their slaves, who were from other nations where the Incas ruled. For the buildings they used stones up to 1.5 m 2 (square meters), the stones were placed one next to the other. (Rowe, 1946) It is unclear how these giant stones were moved from Cuzco to Quito, by that time the wheel was unknown.

The Incas sometimes used a grid pattern to lay out their inner cities. Although it was not common, it was used occasionally, for example the streets were designed to cross one to another at 90 degree angles. This method was found in Cuzco. They used more often the radial pattern for their city arrangement. Anthropologist believe that the grid pattern was an earlier model of the city arrangements and the radial pattern a later form because the examples of this pattern were found far from Cuzco. This pattern was used widely across the Empire and for the settlements in conquered regions. It is unknown why they used more often the radial pattern but their reason could be to overcome obstacles found during working in the construction in the earlier models of the cities. Their monumental building activities are another of the accomplishments for which they are most famous. They are best known as highly skilled stoneworkers, able to construct building of massive stones that were so well fitted together that a knife blade will not squeeze between them.

This technique was only one of several used by them for the most important buildings, such as temples, administrative structures, and the kings’ residences. (Malpass, 1996) They never used either mortar or cement in their buildings. They also used the adobe or mud brick covered with a layer of mud or clay and painted. Their stonework was tedious and slow but specialists and unskilled laborers worked together. An extend number of people were necessary to be successful in building so many types of structures such as Cuzco. All the labor and planning was directed by architects and master stone masons under the Inca king’s supervision. They were highly skilled individuals that built fortresses, temples, and palaces for the king and all-around of the empire. Also the under skilled workers were needed to help quarry rock, move them and raise them in to position. (Malpass, 1996)

They were successful because they used an abundant state workforce based on a system of rotational labor to supply their workers: M’ta, The Inca Labor Tax. The Incas required all taxpaying individuals to work a certain period of time each year for the empire. (Rowe 1946) This system was organized in such a way as to minimize disruption in the lives of the workers and his family. When a person was called to do m’ita labor, another member was required to do his other job for the community. The people in charge of this were the Curacas. They were managing the schedules and m’ita rotation. If the Inca king decided a new bridge was to be constructed over a major river in the middle of providence.

The Inca engineers determined that 600 men would be needed over a period of 18 months. So the king’s decree that 600 men should be called up from that providence for the bridge construction. The governor of the providence summoned the two curacas of 10,000 households and told them they needed to call up 300 men each. (Malpass, 1996) This system shows how the Incas were able to construct a variety of monuments in such a short time, but they still allow people to carry on their lives with minimal disruption. They were efficient and successful managers.


From about 1450 to 1530, the west coast of South America prospered under a huge Inca empire. The Inca could compare with the ancient Roman society. The success of the Inca (its roads, its government and its system of accounts) helped them to dominate a huge area of South America. They built roads between the realm of Ecuador to the southern border of Argentina and Chile, creating an extensive system of communication. Along every road they had messengers to carry messages back and forth with impressive efficiency. The road network contributed to the success of the Incas, simplifying government efforts to control the empire. They used a management system to schedule the Inca labor during the construction of their buildings.

Another construction method was the use of models to plan cities. They assemble a clay model for the reconstruction of cities that the Inca army conquered. These models were made depending of the characteristics of the zone conquered and they were presented to the Inca in charge for the approval for suggestions or changes that needed to be made. When these models were finally approved, these models would be given to the people in charge for executing the orders of the rules and labor tax and started the construction. An example, they created a model of Cuzco after the battle with the Chancas. They were efficient and successful managers in terms of cost, time, budget, resources and customer satisfaction in their projects overcoming the land structure, the weather and their battles.

Malpass, Michael. (1996). Daily Life in the Inca Empire. . Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. Rostworowski de Diez Canseco, Maria. (1999). History of the Inca Realm. (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Rowe, John H. (1946). Inca Culture at the time of the Spanish conquest. In handbook of South American Indians. Vol.2. The Andean Civilizations, Julian Steward, ed., pp. 183-330 Washington, DC Kerzner H. & Saladis F. (2009). Project management workbook and PMP/CAPM exam study guide (10th ed.), e-book. Project Management Institute. (2008). A guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) (4th ed.). Newtown Square, PA


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