Academics have identified 18 reasons why so-called mega projects – such as High Speed Two (HS2) and Crossrail – fail so often and propose 54 preventative solutions.
Researchers from University College London and the University of Sussex have carried out the first comprehensive evaluation of studies into mega project performance.
They concluded from this that there is not a single factor that brings such gigantic companies to their knees – but they have classified common causes into six themes.
The team – working with various project operators – hopes the findings will help refine future mega projects to address these weaknesses.
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Academics have identified 18 reasons why so-called mega projects – such as High Speed Two (HS2), pictured and Cross Rail – fail so often and propose 54 preventative solutions
WHAT ARE MEGA PROJECTS?
Mega projects are large-scale construction or demolition companies that often cost more than $ 1 billion (£ 766 million).
They are difficult to manage because of their typical large scale and complexity – as well as their complex relationships with local communities, governments and the environment.
Mega projects usually take years.
Examples of this are the construction of airports, railways, highways, power plants or space projects.
“Given the importance of mega projects for the global economy, we wanted to deepen and expand our knowledge about the causes and remedies of poor mega project performance,” said paper author and project management expert Juliano Denicol.
“We have emphasized the solutions rather than the problems, in an effort to shape the academic discussion into a more positive discourse and to connect with the needs of senior managers who deliver mega projects.”
In their study, Dr. Denicol and colleagues reviewed more than 6,000 academic papers on mega projects before bringing them back to 89 studies that they analyzed in detail.
The researchers identified six main themes in the management of mega projects.
These were decision-making behavior; strategy, governance and purchasing; risk and uncertainty; leadership and capable teams; stakeholder involvement and management; supply chain integration and coordination.
The team then investigated their findings with other academics and with representatives from the British industry of mega projects, including Crossrail, HS2, the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant and the Thames Tideway Tunnel.
From their analysis, the researchers proposed five future areas in which mega projects can be improved to ensure successful deliveries.
These are building partnerships, bridging the gap with production, designing the system architecture, involving institutions and communities and dividing into small projects and integrating the supply chain.
Researchers from University College London and the University of Sussex have conducted the first comprehensive evaluation of studies into mega project performance. Pictured, an artist’s impression of a high-speed train 2
Academics have found that there is no single factor that brings gigantic companies like HS2, pictured here with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, to their knees – but have classified common causes
“The success of mega projects is vital for economies around the world,” said Peter Hansford, the former Chief Construction Adviser of the British government.
“All too often they fail to achieve their objectives in material respects – sometimes with very serious social and economic consequences.”
“It is therefore very important to understand why mega projects are doing poorly and what needs to be done to prevent them from doing this.”
‘This systematic literature study points the way to answering these crucial questions and proposes a clear research agenda to determine the future success of mega projects. It is an impressive piece of work. “
The team – working with various project operators, including those from the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant under construction – hopes the findings will help refine future mega projects to address these weaknesses
“This is an excellent piece of research,” said Sue Kershaw, president of the Association for Project Management.
“The findings have a neat theme and the proposals that future research should be more systematic are welcome.”
“We at HS2 were delighted to contribute to what is an impressive and exhausting piece of research into the world of mega-projects that covers both the practical and the academic arena,” said Mark Thurston, CEO of HS2 Ltd.
“What is really crucial is that on a number of key issues it has been concluded that those of us who struggle with these challenges every day can be a useful guide to boosting success, something that will benefit both the profession and wider society . ”
The full findings of the study were published in the Project Management Journal.
In their study, Dr. Denicol and colleagues reviewed more than 6,000 academic papers on mega projects before bringing them back to 89 studies that they analyzed in detail. Pictured, work on a Crossrail or Elizabeth Line platform in Paddington
The team then examined their findings with other academics and with representatives from the UK mega-project industry, including Crossrail (photo), HS2, the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant and the Thames Tideway Tunnel
EXAMPLES OF THE MOST MASSIVE MEGA PROJECTS OF THE WORLD
THE BIGGEST AIRPORT OF THE WORLD
Daxing International Airport in Beijing, China, completed in June 2019
Pictured, the Daxing International Airport in Beijing
THE LONGEST RAIL TUNNEL OF THE WORLD
The Gotthard base tunnel, Switzerland, opened in June 2016
Pictured, the Gotthard base tunnel under development
TEN TEN CITIES
High Speed Rail in California, in the United States, under development
Pictured, an artist’s impression of the High Speed Rail in California