Megaproject Organization


Book Title:  Megaproject Organization and Performance: The Myth and Political Reality
Author:  Nuno Gil, Colm Ludrigan, Jeffrey Pinto, Phanish Puranam
Publisher:  Project Management Institute
List Price:  $34.95
Format:  Soft cover, 164 pages
Publication Date: 2017
ISBN: 978-1-62825-176-0
Reviewer: Dr. Charles Y. Chen, PMP
Review Date: April 2018



Large-scale, capital-intensive infrastructure projects, i.e., megaprojects, are often plagued by milestone delays, ballooning scope, and seemingly uncontrollable cost-to-complete. Examples abound. Boston’s Central Artery/Tunnel Project (the Big Dig) in the United States, Heathrow Airport Terminal 2 in the United Kingdom, and Uganda’s Kampala-Entebbe Expressway, just to name a few.

The authors of Megaproject Organization and Performance: The Myth and Political Reality use multiple case studies to identify a possible cause of the performance issues that plague megaprojects. Instead of analyzing megaprojects through the lens of project management, the authors explore the relationship between the megaproject performance with its organizational structure. They use the case studies to highlight the pluralistic nature of the megaproject’s organization structure, as the project core team not only includes the project promoter but also other stakeholders. Because these actors control strategic resources and influence, the project sponsor cannot use authority vested in ownership stakes or regulation to get things done. Thus, the authors conclude, megaprojects are akin to a pluralistic organization.

The authors derived their insight from data from the robust economy of the United Kingdom, highlighting Crossrail and High Speed 2 (HS2) railways, the London Olympic Park, and Heathrow Airport Terminal 2 (T2). In addition, they extend their analysis with railroad and highway development projects in developing countries of Nigeria, India, and Uganda. With pluralism at the core of the megaproject’s organizational structure, the authors argue, the disappointing and underperformance of mega-projects may be a result of organizational challenges rather than agency or competence related.

Overview of Book’s Structure

This book is a compilation of four case studies that explore megaprojects from an organizational theory vantage point instead of a traditional project management analysis. The authors view megaprojects as “meta-organizations” composed of multiple stakeholders collaborating a system-level goal [1]. In this 5-chapter book, the authors use Chapter 1 to define their framework of megaproject as a mega-organization where the structure is pluralistic instead of hierarchical. Now that the organizational design theory is defined, Chapter 2 explores the creation and growth of a megaproject organization.

Now that the tenets of a megaproject as a mega-organization are set, the authors use the next three chapters to substantiate their thesis. Chapters 3 and 4 are written around three megaprojects in the United Kingdom – Crossrail and High Speed 2 (HS2) railways, the London Olympic Park, and Heathrow Airport Terminal 2 (T2). Chapter 3 traces regular slippages in the performance targets of these projects back to their organizational structure. In other words, as the organizational structure changes, the performance targets change. Chapter 4 investigates the decision making challenges and the resultant performance impacts due to a pluralistic organization, drawing a correlation between the diffusion of power to changes in performance targets.

The authors explore the impact of a pluralistic core on project performance in developing economies of Nigeria, Uganda, and India. By examining the megaprojects in these countries, the authors show that slippages in megaproject performance targets are exacerbated by the scarcity of slack resources and mechanisms to resolve disputes.


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About the Reviewer

Dr. Charles Y. Chen

Texas, USA



Dr. Charles Y. Chen has had the privilege of leading teams of engineers and scientists to transform ideas into viable products. His career began at Northrop Grumman, initially as a systems engineer and then as a program manager, he led matrixed teams of engineers to innovate, mature, and produce new electronic sensor technologies and algorithms. Energetics Incorporated introduced Charlie to the world of management consulting. Initially as a director then as the Chief Strategy Officer, he led teams to help clients transition ideas developed in the laboratory to the marketplace, overcoming the so-called valley of death. As Executive Vice President of Engineering at Hover Energy, Dr. Chen is leading and coordinating key activities to scale-up a new wind turbine designed for the urban environment.

Dr. Chen got his B.S. and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Cornell University. He received his Executive Education from University of Chicago Booth School of Business. As a PMP, he looks forward to leading teams to achieve the impossible.

Email address:

[email protected].



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