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The Mega Danger of Mega Projects

As Cobb’s Paradox states, “We know why projects fail; we know how to prevent their failure – so why do they still fail?” Patrick Weaver, a writer for and business manager for Stakeholder Management Pty Ltd., tackles the seemingly intractable conundrum of why most mega-projects the world over continue to fail.

Ignorance about the Reality of Big Projects

According to Weaver, the rosy assumptions of certain managers and high-level decision-makers fly in the face of known facts. Reports and surveys still show that, despite the fact that we live in a technologically astounding era, most projects tend to take longer and are more expensive, not the other way around. Why such widespread ignorance about the reality of big projects?

The Benefits of Deception

Weaver cites that there are actually benefits to being knowingly deceptive about project deadlines and costs. For example, the Sydney Opera House in Australia, a much lauded cultural icon that was nonetheless criticized for its out of proportion costs and surprising 14 year construction period, was the product of a willful deception by its proponents. The unethical side-effect is that architect Jørn Utzon’s career was ruined.

The Pitfalls of Hope (In this Case, Self-Delusion)

That brings us to the second and primary reason big projects tend to fail. As Weaver puts it:

… a deliberate strategy to mislead is far preferable to the self-delusion and wishful thinking that seems to create most major project and program disasters: hope is not a strategy! And hoping the self-delusions and wishful thinking will somehow turn into success is a major governance failure…

Weaver also lists some additional heavily cited reasons for project failure. Yet to explain why 70% of mega-projects continue to fail despite major efforts at reform, he falls back on the assertion of poor governance, buoyed by ignorance and self-delusion, as the primary cause of big-project failure.

Read the full article here:

About Eric Anderson

Eric Anderson is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. He is an intern at Computer Aid Inc., pursuing his master's degree in communications at Penn State University.

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