Shaping Mega-Science Projects and Practical Steps for Success

Shaping Mega-Science Projects and Practical Steps for Success

Phil Crosby (Curtin University, Australia)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2255-3.ch494
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Abstract

Too many large engineering/science projects fail in terms of budget overruns, schedule slippage, or under-performance, and this has profound implications not only for the construction and commissioning organisations, but also for the funders (public or private), and the clients or users. Successful design and delivery is therefore not only a commercial necessity but also a societal imperative. Success in complex mega-projects is not easily achieved and is interpreted differently by various stakeholders, moreover there is growing recognition of the importance of front-end shaping. In this chapter, the author addresses the inception, planning and feasibility phases of complex mega-projects in some depth, based on extant and updated research of large scale high-technology science projects. Five key success drivers are explained, and when addressed together, are shown to be especially potent. This chapter draws out subtle aspects of mega-project management shown to be crucial at the preliminary, or start-up, phase.
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Background

As high-technology (high-tech) projects have grown in size, cost and risk, so has the challenge in realising success. Between the 1960’s and 1980’s project success emphasised delivery against the “iron triangle” (time, cost, scope). By year 2000, success criteria had expanded to include client satisfaction and stakeholder benefits. The 21st century has seen the focus broaden to embrace business success and strategic objectives (Ika, 2009).

Systematic project management emerged in the 1950s with the Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT), and the Critical Path Method (CPM). These methodologies continued to proliferate through the 1960s and 1970s; later becoming computerised. By 1990, PM was effectively professionalised and managed through hierarchical organisational structures, along with their attending bureaucracies, linear mode planning tools, and standardised forms of project review.

The application of skills and techniques to meet the demands of increasing complexity and the parameters by which modern project success is measured, has lagged. Whereas moderately scaled high-tech projects can be managed using traditional PM methods and tools, the reported poor performance of many mega-projects is compelling evidence that lessons are not being learned, and that advanced PM theory and practice is not being applied (Turner, 2004; Cooke-Davies, 2002; Grün, 2004; Shenhar and Dvir, 2007). An example of this is illustrated in data by Flyvbjerg et al., (2003). See Figure 1.

Figure 1.

Project cost control performance over last 90 years

Adapted from Flyvbjerg et al., 2003.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Black Swan: An event that comes as a surprise, has a major effect, and is often inappropriately rationalised with the benefit of hindsight.

Optimism Bias: Manifests itself in projects as an underestimation of the time, costs and risks to delivery and the overestimation of the benefits.

Resilience: The ability of a project to readily resume from unexpected events, threats or actions.

Books of Knowledge: Standards for project management most commonly issued by professional Institutes. They contain the basic processes that project management experts agree are necessary for most projects in most environments.

Procurement: Procurement is the acquisition of goods, services or works from an external source. It should include activities ranging from market scouting through to post-contract reviews.

Communities of Practice: A group of people who share a craft and/or a profession and created specifically with the goal of gaining and sharing knowledge related to their field.

Project Lifecycle: Refers to a series of activities which are necessary to fulfill project goals or objective, including; planning and concept design, commencement, execution and review, final review and learning.

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