Edward Merrow Reveals Why Megaprojects Fail in ‘Project Manager’ Magazine Cover Story

Independent Project Analysis (IPA) Founder and President Edward Merrow is featured in the cover story of this month’s issue of Project Manager magazine (Klaver, Ali. December/January 2012. Speed Kills. Project Manager, page 18). In the article, he reveals “Why Megaprojects Fail” and provides tips to help improve project performance. Continue reading for a summary of the feature.

Merrow, the author of Industrial Megaprojects: Concepts, Strategies, and Practices for Success (Wiley & Sons, April 2011), also reveals that megaprojects executed around the world have a 65 percent failure rate due to a combination of the massive scope of these large projects as well as the effects of poor practices.

“The sheer amount of work that has to be completed on the front end, combined with our global shortage of first-rate project management personnel, means that teams are frequently understaffed and fail to complete the needed front-end work,” Merrow says.

In addition, Front-End Loading (FEL) is the most reliable predictor of a megaproject’s results, and according to Merrow, the drive for speed in this area contributes to failure.

“Far too often we attempt to run too fast on the front end, only to be forced to give all the time back several times over in execution and startup.”

In addition to slowing down during FEL, Merrow’s advice to improve megaproject management includes better overall communication between project professionals and business and more business education for project professionals.

“In some respects, the saddest aspect of these big project failures is that we almost always knew the right things to do, but for a variety of (bad) reasons, we failed to do them.”

Merrow delves deeper into these issues in Industrial Megaprojects and in the highly popular IPA Institute megaprojects course that he developed (and often instructs himself) to further educate project professionals involved with these large and fragile projects.

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