Mega is different. A multidisciplinary journey into the complex world of Megaprojects

Franca Cantoni, Edoardo Favari

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingForeword/postscript

Abstract

Megaprojects have characterized all civilizations since the dawn of mankind. In the last decades, they are spreading not only in developed and rich countries, but almost anywhere in the world. In addition, their dimension is growing in terms of cost, impact, and complexity. Research on megaprojects is pretty recent: the first broad study has been carried out by Miller and Lessard (2000), having as a core concept that megaprojects are shaped, not chosen or planned. The message of Miller and Lessard is still valid: makes no sense to apply a planning or selection process for a megaproject, as it will not become a piece of the environment where it will be placed, but it will literally make the environment, dramatically modify the envi- ronment where it is located. Miller and Lessard focused their attention on large engineering projects (LEPs); today, researches expanded the perimeter of such studies to megaprojects, including large-scale events such as Olympics and large IT projects. The three major contributors to current megaproject research are Bent Flyvbjerg, Edward Merrow, and Peter E. D. Love. Determining whether a project is a megaproject is not immediate: there is a threshold related to the budget invested (some authors set a lower limit to 100 M€/$, some others at 1B€/$); in addition, it is pretty clear that phenomena characterizing megaprojects are emerging even in project investing an order of magnitude less, but facing a large variety of stake- holders: this is the case of several IT projects. It is pretty clear that it is a matter of complexity in the project’s (internal and external) environment, but it stays unclear how to assess the level of complexity first, and how to govern it, later. What is evident is that traditional management is not working for a megaproject. More simply, traditional management is not enough. Applying a traditional “Deming” approach Plan-Do-Check-Act simply is not enough: organizations performing megaprojects still need good managers able to apply traditional management at tactic level, but what is missing in this approach is the long-run strategy enabling a megaproject to shape the environment where is operating in the best possible way. At the same time, the public debate on megaprojects is far from being agreed upon. In the last few years, the topic is particularly relevant at the EU level. In fact the decision-making process on which infrastructure (LEP) should be funded and vii viii Preface which not by the public sector has been criticized by new “sovranist” political parties. For example, studies both in favour and against the funding of the same infrastructure have been published by different academics, even belonging to the same institution. To tackle this situation, in 2018 a group of researcher belonging to different institutions and academic sectors established the Megaproject Research Interdisciplinary Team (MeRIT). The group aims at: • spreading awareness about megaprojects implementation towards public opinion; • promoting academic research on megaprojects involving a wide range of research fields, such as engineering, architecture, management, economics, sociology, laws, and political sciences; • being the reference point for Megaproject Stakeholders debate, by promoting discussion events involving the whole supply chain of stakeholders responsible for megaproject decision and implementation; • Help spreading awareness about megaprojects implementation towards public opinion; • supporting megaprojects planning, implementation, and management, transfer- ring the findings from the academic research and the stakeholders debate to operators on the field. The position of the MeRIT is that the research on megaprojects cannot be unique and linear: there is an epistemological limit in such an approach. Complexity requires a multiple approach in a kind of hermeneutic circle of megaprojects: the understanding of a megaprojec
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMegaproject Management: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Embrace Complexity and Sustainability
Pages7-9
Number of pages3
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Keywords

  • megaprojects

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