The Bartlett School of Sustainable Construction


CPM research reveals the key factors for effective management of large-scale projects

15 September 2017

Findings from recent research on megaprojects - led by CPM’s Professor Andrew Davies - has been published in the MIT Sloan Management Review.

Professor Andrew Davies

Based on more than ten years of research into London’s large infrastructure projects, the paper – Five Rules for Managing Large, Complex Projects - identifies five simple rules demonstrating how innovation is essential to managing uncertainty in large, complex projects.

Megaprojects - large-scale projects with budgets of over $1 billion - are essential to the social and economic infrastructure of many countries, having significant effects on prosperity, society and the environment. However, the size and complexity of megaprojects puts them at significant risk of being delivered late and over budget.

This paper – authored by Prof Davies along with Mark Dodgson (University of Queensland Business School), David M. Gann (Imperial College Business School) and Samuel C. MacAulay (University of Queensland Business School) - identifies better ways of managing uncertainties that can arise during the lifecycle of any large, complex project.

Professor Davies, CPM Professor of the Management of Projects, says:

My co-authors and I have worked really closely with senior managers involved in some of London’s largest megaprojects to develop the ideas presented in this paper. We hope that the simple rules we identified will be of practical value to other managers involved in large, complex projects.

The article suggests that uncertainty can be managed through innovation throughout the course of a project. Projects studied included  HS1, Heathrow Terminal 5, Infrastructure for London 2012 Olympics, Crossrail, Heathrow Terminal 2 and The Thames Tideway Tunnel have revealed five rules for innovation.

  1. Assess what’s worked before
  2. Organize for the unforeseen
  3. Rehearse first
  4. Calibrate and apportion risks appropriately
  5. Harness innovation from starts to finish

While designed with megaprojects in mind, the paper suggests that this approach can benefit managers of all large, high-risk projects, providing guidance on how to modify plans and processes in response to changing opportunities and conditions.

MIT Sloan Management Review is the leading business journal sharing research and advance in management practice. The MIT Sloan School of Management is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s business school, and is a leading teaching and research institution in the management practice field.

Prof Davies is Professor of the Management of Projects and Director of Research at The Bartlett School of Construction and Project Management. His published research has focused on how innovation occurs in complex product systems, project-based firms and organisations, systems integration, and integrated solutions business models.

Prof Davies’s forthcoming book - Projects: A Very Short Introduction will be published in late October 2017. The book provides a clear, accessible introduction to the challenges involved in the organisation and management of projects, and explains how the different dimensions of projects are understood in theory.