It is difficult to overstate the potential of an effective calendaring solution to increase productivity. Not only are personal and business goals at stake, but lives and even nations may indeed hang in the balance! A look back through history will reveal how crucial it is to have a working calendar solution, not only for yourself but one that communicates with friends, colleagues and customers.

Exxon Valdez

Exxon Valdez: One of the worst environmental human-caused disasters occurred shortly after the Exxon Valdez left the southern terminus of the Alaska Pipeline on March 23, 1989. The actions of Captain Joseph Hazelwood have been scrutinized heavily and he was acquitted of the charge of being drunk at the time. But what is not disputed is that, within two hours of the departure of the vessel, Hazelwood left the wheel house in the charge of a Third Mate and another member of the crew. These two had been scheduled to receive their mandatory 6-hours off-duty before beginning a 12-hour shift. But because of a scheduling mixup, they went back on duty and were bleary-eyed at the helm when the Exxon Valdez struck Bligh Reef shortly after midnight on March 24th, less than 3 hours into its journey to Long Beach, California. It is quite likely that, had the intended schedule been kept and had these men received the proper time-off, this rookie error would not have occurred and 10.9 million gallons of Prudhoe Bay crude would not have been dumped into the waters and pristine coastline of Prince William Sound, which resulted in the deaths of 500,000 seabirds, at least 1,000 sea otters, 300 harbor seals and 22 killer whales, and the decimation of countless other fish and coastal life.

Hindenburg

Hindenburg: The iconic Hindenburg disaster almost certainly would not have happened, or with so much loss of life, if the schedule had not been put out of whack by weather-related delays. The Hindenburg left Frankfurt, Germany on May 3, and on the morning of May 6th  it was about six hours behind schedule when it achieved land over Boston on its way to the Lakehurst Naval Air Station in Manchester, New Jersey. Its landing was further delayed by stormy weather at Lakehurst, and so the airship took a tour of Southern New Jersey coastline while waiting for the storm to pass.

But the tragedy to come could not have been foreseen by the ground crew called to muster at the docking point. Sadly, they were not ready to perform their critical duties as the fated ship pulled into the station for the first time, after having been delayed almost 12 hours from the original scheduled landing. So the ship took what then seemed to be a harmless stroll around the airfield to get in position again in 15 minutes, by which time the crew would be ready to tie the ship down and unload the passengers. Those 15 minutes turned out to be the last 15 minutes of the lives of the thirty-six crew and passengers who perished in the fiery wreck. Had the crew been ready to receive the ship when it first arrived, the death toll may very well have been just a fraction of this total.

Titanic

Titanic: The Titanic’s original maiden voyage was March 20, 1912. But during the last year of its construction, its sister ship the Olympic sustained damage from an encounter with HMS Hawke due to poor scheduling of the shipping lanes in the Solent, the stretch of water separating the Isle of Wight from the English mainland. What began as a simple scheduling error cascaded into a tragedy of colossal proportions. To repair the Olympic, many of Titanic’s construction crew were diverted for work on its less-ill-fated sister ship. This ended up postponing the Titanic’s maiden voyage by three weeks, until April 10, 1912.

Most of history’s iceberg shipwrecks have occurred in the months of April – August, when the glaciers are calving at the height of their season. A March launch could have seen the Titanic move through its transatlantic trip without incident. Rather, on its maiden voyage, the Titanic’s captain and its owners were determined to wow the watching world with a speedy trip for a ship of its size and status. The ship’s captain, believing the advance publicity of the unsinkability of his ship, took few precautions as the Titanic blasted through the iceberg-laden waters of the North Atlantic. In his confidence, the captain retired to his bed while his pilot and crew entered the treacherous and ultimately fatal portion of their final journey. Of course, we know that the iceberg struck the starboard side of the ship, and slashed open the four chambers that, as they filled, sealed the doom of the not-so-unsinkable ship. But had the Olympic not been at the wrong place at the wrong time months before, it would not have sustained the damage that delayed the construction that delayed the launch that doomed the ship that ended the lives of 1500 passengers and crew.

Lincolns Assassination

Lincoln’s Assassination: President Lincoln had come out of his wartime depression, and was unusually cheerful and upbeat on the morning of April 14, 1865. All the news from the war lately was encouraging, and it seemed as if the Confederacy couldn’t last much longer. He and his wife Mary had plans to attend Ford’s Theater that evening. John Wilkes Booth, an actor, had stopped by Ford’s during the day to collect his mail, and he overheard the news that Lincoln and General Grant were to be attending the theater together. This was the chance he had been looking for; killing both Lincoln and Grant in the same attack would deal the Union a mortal wound that might give the Confederacy time to recover. (As it turns out, Grant did not plan to attend.)

The first schedule mishap that evening almost prevented the President from attending the play, which would have saved him. Missouri Senator John B. Henderson came to the White House to personally appeal for a pardon for a Confederate spy sentenced to die. Lincoln had more compassion on this Confederate than he was later shown by Booth, and he granted the pardon, his ironic, and yet fitting, final presidential act. Arriving late to Ford’s theater, the play already in progress, Lincoln and his wife were installed in their box seats before their bodyguard showed up. This second schedule mishap was the crucial one; the bodyguard assigned to protect the President came late and left early from his appointed station outside the President’s box. He therefore offered no impediment to Booth, who likely would not have been able to succeed in his fatal intentions if he had been met with threatening force.

The Sack of Rome

The Sack of Rome: Alaric, King of the Goths, sought to use the threat of violence rather than actual violence as means to get his way with Honorius, the Roman Emperor from 395-423. Twice before he ultimately sacked Rome, Alaric had entered Italy with his troops, but Goth compromises and Roman promises kept the barbarians on reasonable terms. Alaric had, in fact, allied himself and his armies with Rome in service of both his people’s need for food and Rome’s. Alaric had originally supported Attalus to replace Honrius as Emperor, but when Attalus proved indecisive, Alaric returned to Honorius to discuss his re-establishment as Emperor.

But the peace that would have ensued never came, because a scheduling error prevented the meeting from ending felicitously. Honorius, not knowing in advance of Alaric’s offer toward him, sent a rival Goth, Sarus, to attack Alaric’s men. Having double scheduled both the attack and the reconciliation, Honorius was in a poor position to receive Alaric’s offer. Alaric’s men repelled the attack and Alaric withdrew from Honorius. Bent out of shape as people who are double-scheduled upon often are, Alaric was no longer inclined to show mercy on Rome. He and his marauding Goths entered the city on August 24, 410 AD, and he allowed his men to have a free hand to rape, pillage and burn. As they left the city they left behind tens of thousands of dead bodies and broken spirits, hundreds of piles of rubble, and an empire in shambles.

Each of these deadly calamities could have been averted with powerful calendaring and collaboration software as is now widely available. Let us now fast forward to modern times. Do you have any scheduling disaster experiences to share with us? We would love to hear from you in the comments below.