Designing Temporary Meta-organisations: Insights from a deep study onmegaprojects

Date, Time, Venue

23rd May 2012, Wednesday at 11.45
Foster Court 101 University College London


This presentation will introduce an ongoing research programme aimed at inductively building conceptual understanding on megaproject organisational design and strategy. Building on Gulati et al.'s (2012)(*) taxonomy of meta-organisational designs, we frame megaprojects as a temporary meta-organisation, adding temporality as another dimension to explain variability in meta-organisational designs. Drawing on in-depth empirical studies of three megaprojects for which we negotiated unprecedented access to the top executive teams - London2012, Crossrail, and Heathrow East - we ask four fundamental questions: 1. How do megaproject organisations arise? 2. What alternative forms of megaproject organisational designs are available? 3. What key strategic decisions take place over the megaproject? and 4. How are megaprojects governed, i.e. who makes strategic decisions? As temporary organisations formed to deliver capital assets, megaprojects are preceded by a protracted gestation period during which its founders negotiate a narrative to acquire capital commitment; succeeding megaprojects is a decades-long operating life-cycle. Whilst the founders are the de facto architect in charge of designing the megaproject organisation, they move to a principal role and appoint a delivery agent to design the details and oversee capital spending across the megaproject supply network. After renegotiating the megaproject strategy and organisational design upfront with the architect, the delivery agent will try to stick to it. But elements of the strategy will evolve in response not only to (un)foreseeable changes in the environment, but also to involvement in design of the future operator and of other legitimate third parties. The design of the governance structure will determine the extent to which the principal will retain an executive role in megaproject strategic decision-making.


Nuno is Professor of New Infrastructure Development, the world's first professorial handle of this nature in a B-school. Nuno coined the term New Infrastructure Development to designate an intellectual framing that encompasses the intertwined socio-political, financial, and technical challenges characterizing the , management, and overall governance of mega infrastructure programmes, and more broadly, portfolios of programmes hold by corporations, cities/regions, and nations. Nuno earned a PhD in Civil and Environmental Engineering, UC Berkeley, and interdisciplinary certificates in the Management of Technology and in Logistics with the Haas Business School. He had professional practice stints in structural engineering and project management, following completion of a 5-year degree in Civil Engineering in the Instituto Superior T├ęcnico, Lisbon, Portugal. He joined the Manchester Business School in October 2004. Nuno has worked, or done research, with various organizations including IDC/CH2M HILL, Intel, Rolls Royce, BAA, BP, Manchester City Council, Network Rail, Beetham Organization, EDP-Energias de Portugal, London2012, and Crossrail. He has several years of executive education experience, namely on planning to the Rolls Royce Project Management Professional Development Program, on lean construction to the North-West Development Agency, and on contracting and procurement strategy to the BP Managing Projects College. Nuno was the lead editor of the 2009 special issue of California Management Review Infrastructure meets Business: Building New Bridges, Mending Old Ones. Nuno is the founder and academic director of the Centre for Infrastructure Development (CID).