Understanding the Outcomes of Mega-Projects

A Quantitative Analysis of Very Large Civilian Projects

by Edward W. Merrow, Lorraine M. McDonnell, R. Ylmaz Arguden


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This report analyzes the costs, problems, and operations of megaprojects (projects requiring huge physical and financial resources) by examining 52 civilian projects ranging in cost from $500 million to over $10 billion (in 1984 dollars). The authors consider whether megaprojects meet their cost, schedule, and performance goals; whether they typically display poorer outcomes than smaller projects; what factors contribute to good and bad outcomes; and what steps can be taken to minimize the cost, schedule, and performance risks associated with megaprojects. The authors recommend that the sponsors of megaprojects (1) broaden the scope of the project definition phase to rigorously and systematically include cultural, linguistic, legal, and especially political factors; (2) train project managers to be as aware of the project's institutional environment as of the internal project organization; and (3) question whether new technology, construction techniques, or design approaches are essential to the mission of the project.

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