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Prof. Rodney Turner - On the Theories of Mega Project Success

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Prof. Rodney Turner* - On the Theories of Mega Project Success

*Rodney Turner SAIPEM Professor of Project Management at the Politecnico di Milano, and Professor of Project Management at SKEMA Business School, in Lille France, where he is Scientific Director for the PhD in Project and Program Management. He is Adjunct Professor at Drexel University Philadelphia, and Visiting Professor and High End Foreign Expert at Shanghai University.

Rodney was educated at Auckland University where he did a Bachelor of Engineering and Oxford University where he received an MSc in Industrial mathematics and a DPhil in Engineering Science.

Rodney was introduced to project management working for ICI as a mechanical engineer and project manager in the oil, gas and petrochemical industry. He then worked for Coopers and Lybrand as a management consultant, working in manufacturing, telecommunications, government, and other areas. He was then director of Project Management at Henley Management College and Professor of Project Management at Erasmus University Rotterdam before joining the Lille School of Management (now SKEMA Business School) in 2004.

Rodney is the author or editor of eighteen books, including The Handbook of Project-based Management, the best-selling book published by McGraw-Hill, and the Gower Handbook of Project Management. He is editor of The International Journal of Project Management. His research areas cover project management in small to medium-enterprises, the management of complex projects, the governance of project management, including ethics and trust, project leadership and Human Resource Management in the project-oriented firm.

Rodney is Vice President, Honorary Fellow and former chairman of the UK’s Association for Project Management, and Honorary Fellow and former President and Chairman of the International Project Management Association. In 2004 he received a life-time research achievement award from the Project Management Institute, and in 2012 from the International Project Management Association. From 1997 to 2005, he returned to the oil, gas and petrochemical industry as Operations Director of the Benelux Region of the European Construction Institute. He is a member of the Institute of Directors, and Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.


ABSTRACT

Purpose

We aim to develop a new model for the success of megaprojects. Megaprojects are often said to fail because they finish late and/or overspent. But megaprojects are usually complex, so small changes in input can lead to disproportionate changes in output. So the time and cost targets at the start can have little validity. They are useful targets, not values which can be used to judge success or failure. We suggest a megaprojects is a success if it produces a worthwhile result at a time and cost that makes it valuable.

Design

We develop a new model for the success of megaprojects, and asses its applicability against a number of case studies from well known sources.

Findings

We identify four dimensions of megaproject success: they produce an output at a time and cost that makes it valuable; they achieve the desired outcome and benefit at a time and cost that make them valuable; they deliver positive net present value; they deliver a business or public need at a time and cost which makes it valuable.

Research implications

We propose a new model for megaproject success that moves away from the so-called iron triangle or triple constraint, which are meaningless in the context of complex projects. Time and cost to completion cannot be predicted on complex projects. However, targets are required because a megaproject must produce a valuable outcome at a time and cost that makes it valuable.

Practical implications

The paper produces a new way of assessing the success of megaprojects which will lead to a larger number of megaprojects being assessed to be successful. It indicates what is truly important, that the megaproject should produce and outcome of value at a time and cost that makes it valuable.

Social implications

Megaprojects often produce benefits to society over and above the financial benefits. Often an economic benefit cannot be paced on these social benefits, which makes it problematic to assess the value of the project. In one of our cases economic value was placed on the social benefits, and the benefit:cost ratio was increased from 0.85 to 2.5.

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