DelhiDesk Megaprojects, such as the delayed HS2 high-speed railway project in the UK, have become synonymous with missed deadlines and cost overruns. A new book, “How Big Things Get Done” by Bent Flyvbjerg and Dan Gardner, details why such projects often go wrong, citing psychological and political biases, over-reliance on intuition and the sunk-cost fallacy. The authors argue that thorough planning and standardisation of processes can mitigate the risks inherent in large bespoke projects. Wind and solar-power installations, which can be assembled from standard components, are among the projects least likely to go awry.
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👉 Many countries have big construction projects that exceed initial budgets and deadlines such as the Big Dig in Boston, the Montreal Olympics stadium, and Brandenburg Airport in Berlin.
👉 Britain’s HS2 project, a high-speed railway down the spine of England, has faced multiple delays and doubled costs from initial estimates.
👉 Only 8.5% of projects meet their initial estimates on cost and time, and only 0.5% achieve what they set out to do on cost, time, and benefits.
👉 Over-optimistic time and cost estimates stem from psychological and political biases, including intuition over data and strategic misrepresentation.
👉 Thorough planning, like Pixar’s approach to film development and Frank Gehry’s meticulous architectural models, can reduce the probability of unexpected events derailing projects.
👉 Mitigating the dangers of large bespoke projects is possible through modular designs and standardized manufacturing processes.
👉 Lessons from managing large public-infrastructure projects can apply to managers of all stripes, including rigorous planning and standardization where possible.
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