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Project Management Journal ■ Volume 48, Number 6 ■ December 2017/January 2018

December 2017/January 2018

Volume 48
Number 6

5 The Past and Present of Megaprojects


Jonas Söderlund, Shankar Sankaran, and Christopher
Biesenthal
17 Symbolic Megaprojects: Historical Evidence of a Forgotten
Dimension
Marcos Lopez Rego, Helio Arthur Reis Irigaray, and
Renato Lago P. Chaves
29 The Three Secrets of Megaproject Success: Clear Strategic
Vision, Total Alignment, and Adapting to Complexity
Aaron Shenhar and Vered Holzmann
47 The Multivocality of Symbols: A Longitudinal Study of the
Symbolic Dimensions of the High-Speed Train Megaproject
(1995–2015)
Alfons van Marrewijk
60 Stakeholder Value Constructs in Megaprojects: A Long-Term
Assessment Case Study
Pernille Eskerod and Karyne Ang
76 Competitive Precinct Projects: The Five Consistent Criticisms
of “Global” Mixed-Use Megaprojects
Mike Harris
93 Dynamic Sublimes, Changing Plans, and the Legacy of a
Megaproject: The Case of the 1966 Soccer World Cup
Alex G. Gillett and Kevin D. Tennent
117 Symbols, Sublimes, Solutions, and Problems: A Garbage Can
Project Management Institute

Model of Megaprojects
John Steen, Jerad A. Ford, and Martie-Louise
Verreynne
132 A Reflection of the State-of-the-Art in Megaproject Research:
The Oxford Handbook of Megaproject Management
Jonas Söderlund

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December 2017/January 2018
Volume 48, Number 6

Th e Pr o fe s s i o n a l Re s e a r ch Jo u r n a l o f t h e Pr o j e c t M a n a g e m e n t I n s t i tu t e

3 From the Editors


Gary Klein, College of Business and Administration, University of Colorado Colorado Springs,
Colorado, USA
Monique Aubry, Professor, School of Business and Management, Université du Québec à Montréal,
Canada

PAPERS
5 The Past and Present of Megaprojects
Jonas Söderlund, Shankar Sankaran, and Christopher Biesenthal

1 7 Symbolic Megaprojects: Historical Evidence of a Forgotten Dimension


Marcos Lopez Rego, Helio Arthur Reis Irigaray, and Renato Lago P. Chaves

2 9 The Three Secrets of Megaproject Success: Clear Strategic Vision, Total Alignment,
and Adapting to Complexity
Aaron Shenhar and Vered Holzmann

4 7 The Multivocality of Symbols: A Longitudinal Study of the Symbolic Dimensions


of the High-Speed Train Megaproject (1995–2015)
Alfons van Marrewijk

6 0 Stakeholder Value Constructs in Megaprojects: A Long-Term Assessment Case Study


Pernille Eskerod and Karyne Ang

7 6 Competitive Precinct Projects: The Five Consistent Criticisms of


“Global” Mixed-Use Megaprojects
Mike Harris

9 3 Dynamic Sublimes, Changing Plans, and the Legacy of a Megaproject:


The Case of the 1966 Soccer World Cup
Alex G. Gillett and Kevin D. Tennent

117 Symbols, Sublimes, Solutions, and Problems: A Garbage Can Model of Megaprojects
John Steen, Jerad A. Ford, and Martie-Louise Verreynne

132 A Reflection of the State-of-the-Art in Megaproject Research:


The Oxford Handbook of Megaproject Management
Jonas Söderlund

138 Calendar of Events


139 Project Management Journal ® Author Guidelines
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From the Editors:
Introducing the Special
Issue on Megaprojects— Photo credit: Photo credit:

“Symbolic and Sublime”


Markus Bullick Émilie Tournevache

Gary Klein, College of Business and Administration,


University of Colorado Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA
Monique Aubry, Professor, School of Business and Management,
Université du Québec à Montréal, Canada

We complete our 2017 volume of Project Management of project management through special issues, in addition
®
Journal with a special issue on megaprojects—projects
of enormous scope with associated increases in ben-
to independent, quality studies on project management
topics. Agile development projects, project networks, and
efits, complexity, risks, and resources. Megaprojects tackle process studies of project organizing are scheduled for
“powerful economic, social and symbolic roles in society” publication in the near future. Currently, there are two
(Flyvbjerg, 2014). Success entails tangible and intangible open calls for papers on the topics of: (1) exploratory proj-
benefits to large populations, providing widespread ser- ects and (2) career paths and systems for project managers.
vices, promoting advancements to achieving recognition, For exploratory projects, the strategic roles of innova-
advancing public health, caring for the environment, and tion and exploration in today’s competitive environment
enhancing transportation and logistic infrastructures. have given birth to a research stream in the management
The topic foreshadows an emergence of even greater of exploration projects for which neither the goals nor the
megaprojects in 2018, with expectations that dramatic means to attaining them are defined from the outset. This
amounts of money will be invested in megaprojects work links the project, innovation, entrepreneurship, and
around the world, in all nations and among partnerships discovery management literature with a new approach
of nations. Performance is historically poor, with no trend to projects as experimental learning processes for which
of doing better (Flyvbjerg, 2017). new management principles, such as selectionism and
Scholars have long considered the topic of mega- sequential learning, have been defined. From the same
projects, although particularly strong attention has been perspective, this literature underlines the need to differen-
placed on the topic this past year. We do not claim this tiate between the management processes for exploratory
topic to be more important than others, but we recognize projects—since the traditional stage-gate approach often
this is a field in which research has great potential to results in failure—and to develop new appraisal methods
make a difference in the world. Indeed, the recent book for their “expansive” nature. We are only at the begin-
by Alvesson, Gabriel, and Paulsen (2017) calls for social ning of this research. Thus, the goal of this special issue
science to be meaningful not to the researcher’s ego, but is continual development of exploratory project research.
rather to specific groups and even society as a whole. Full papers must be submitted by 28 February 2018.
The research on megaprojects has such potential. We, as For career paths and systems, the literature alludes to
scholars, must continue working to change the negative a relationship between project team management and the
pattern of poor performance, all in a context of challenges performance of projects. While “project management” has
in environmental threats, political uncertainty, human developed into a recognized profession, the routes into
migration, extreme weather situations, and other serious the profession and progression within the profession have
concerns with wide scope and impact. little-recognized structure. To a number of scholars, project
This final issue in the 2017 volume continues the objec- management has been and continues to be the ‘acciden-
®
tive of Project Management Journal to provide in-depth
consideration of specific current concerns in the discipline
tal profession’ (Richardson, Earnhardt, & Marion, 2015).
Rarely does a project management career begin within
the profession. The typical project management career fol-
lows as a consequence of another career within the industry
Project Management Journal, Vol. 48, No. 6, 3–4
© 2017 by the Project Management Institute
(Marion, Richardson, & Earnhardt, 2014). How well do we
Published online at www.pmi.org/PMJ understand these entry routes? Do we understand what

December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal  3


Introducing the Special Issue on Megaprojects—“Symbolic and Sublime”

influences their progression? Career paths are, in part, a func- Flyvbjerg, B. (2014). What you should know about
tion of organizational structures, which may comprise training, megaprojects and why: An overview. Project Management
clear-cut career pathways, appraisal and feedback mechanisms, Journal, 45(2), 6–19.
and other factors. Full papers must be submitted by 30 June Flyvbjerg, B. (2017). Introduction: The iron law of megaproject
2018. management. In The Oxford handbook of megaproject
More information on the calls for papers of these special management (pp. 1–18). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
issues is on the Project Management Institute website:
PMI.org (go to the Learning tab to find the Project Manage- Marion, J. W., Richardson, T. M., & Earnhardt, M. P. (2014).
Project manager insights: An analysis of career progression.
®
ment Journal ).
Organisational Project Management, 1(1), 53–73.
References Richardson, T. M., Earnhardt, M. P., & Marion, J. W. (2015).
Alvesson, M., Gabriel, Y., & Paulsen, R. (2017). Return to Is project management still an accidental profession? A
meaning: A social science with something to say. Oxford, UK: qualitative study of career trajectory. SAGE Open, 5(1),
Oxford University Press. 2158244015572098.

4  December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal


The Past and Present of Megaprojects
PAPERS

Jonas Söderlund, BI Norwegian Business School, Norway


Shankar Sankaran, University of Technology Sydney, Australia
Christopher Biesenthal, WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management, Germany

Megaprojects on the Rise which is predicted to cost close to US$400 billion. He pre-
Megaprojects are “large-scale, complex ventures that dicts that soon we will be looking at ‘terraprojects,’ observ-
typically cost US$1 billion or more, take many years to ing that “there is no indication that the relentless drive to
develop and build, involve multiple public and private scale is abating in megaproject development. Quite the
stakeholders, are transformational, and impact millions opposite; scale seems to be accelerating” (p. 5).
of people” (Flyvbjerg, 2017, p. 2). While megaprojects One reason for such acceleration in megaprojects
are often differentiated by the amount of their capital can be gleaned from the projections of infrastructure
investment, they are also characterized in other ways. For to meet the world’s ever-increasing needs for economic
example, Zhai, Xin, and Cheng (2009, p. 99) state that mega- growth and improvements. McKinsey (Garemo, Matzinger,
projects exhibit “extreme complexity, substantial risks, & Palter, 2015) estimates that the world needs to spend
long duration and extensive impact on the community, about US$57 trillion on infrastructure by 2030 to keep
economy, technological development, and environment of up with the expected GDP growth. The Organisation
the region or even the whole country.” On the other hand, for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
taking a sociological perspective, Gellert and Lynch (2003, estimates that “global infrastructure investment needs
pp. 15–16) consider megaprojects as ‘displacements’ by of US$6.3 trillion per year over the period of 2016–2030
stating that megaprojects are “projects which transform to support growth and development,” which exceeds the
landscapes rapidly, intentionally, and profoundly in very figure proposed by McKinsey (Mirabile, Marchal, & Baron,
visible ways, and require coordinated applications of capi- 2017). However megaprojects are not only large-scale
tal and state power.” Indeed, looking at society through infrastructure projects; for example the Business Insider
its megaprojects would reveal its ambitions, problems, as (Desjardins, 2017), which lists the world’s nine largest
well as its future outlooks. megaprojects includes a theme park valued at US$64 bil-
Merrow (2011, p. 12), one of the world’s leading mega- lion in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, as a megaproject.
project analysts, adds that many megaprojects “end up Urban planners, including Altshuler and Luberoff (2003),
being disappointing to their sponsors; a fewer number have predicted that buildings, including stadiums and
turn out to be destroyers of shareholder wealth; and a few museums, will take the shape of megaprojects in the future
are horrendous with respect to anything and everything (see also Siemiatycki, 2017).
involved—the investing companies, the local population According to futurist Thomas Frey from the Da Vinci
and the environment.” To be sure, this is a problem that Institute, megaprojects are expected to increase rapidly to
has been addressed over the years and something that 24% of the global GDP in the coming ten years. He predicts
analysts and scholars have pointed out many times. And that projects initiated to control extreme weather, handle
if we agree that megaprojects are important and that their large amounts of data, and solve human problems, such
performance is poor, then scholars and practitioners have as diseases, will also be organized as megaprojects in the
a joint responsibility for improving their performance. future. In that respect, there seems to be a general consen-
It is interesting to note that despite all the negative sus among many leading analysts that megaprojects are not
performance that megaprojects have purportedly had, only on the rise, they are also increasing in size and variety.
surprisingly, more and more of them are being built. Moreover, there seems to be consensus pertaining to
Flyvbjerg, Bruzelius, and Rottengatter (2003) refer to this the poor performance of megaprojects. Researchers refer
phenomenon as the ‘megaproject paradox.’ Perhaps even to the “under-performance of megaprojects” and call to
more fascinating is that, not only are more of them being the discipline to refocus its tools and techniques to better
planned and built; they are also becoming increasingly cope with the challenges of contemporary megaprojects
ambitious. For instance, Flyvbjerg (2017) has equated the (see, for instance, Lenfle & Loch, 2017). The project man-
size of several contemporary megaprojects being built agement community is still struggling to find consistent
as exceeding the gross domestic product (GDP) of many ways to improve the performance of megaprojects in
nations, citing projects such as the Joint Strike Fighter, the engineering, construction, and defense sectors. It
is ill prepared to propose ways to handle megaprojects
that will arise in non-traditional areas such as human
Project Management Journal, Vol. 48, No. 6, 5–16
© 2017 by the Project Management Institute
conditions and addressing the effects of climate change
Published online at www.pmi.org/PMJ (Frey, 2016).

December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal  5


The Past and Present of Megaprojects

Thus, we need a better understanding of megaprojects Megaprojects attract our attention, appeal to our senses,
because they are increasing in numbers and magnitude in attract media attention, and, recently, have been receiving
addition to being applied in new sectors still with limited increasing scholarly attention. An overall and intriguing ques-
experience from the management of large-scale projects tion pertains to the issue of why megaprojects exist. Indeed,
and complex systems integration. A wider perspective will one might simply answer: because they are needed, because
most certainly be needed, including research from diverse they generate value, and because they have proposed a con-
disciplines following different approaches. In sum, mega- vincing and attractive business case. Understanding the ratio-
projects will be carried out at the edge of technological and nale underlying the decision to implement a megaproject will
institutional complexity—putting extreme demands on the lead us to look further into what seems to drive the megaproject
management capabilities of those tasked with putting these business and why megaprojects are considered attractive to
projects in place, calling for better support and better under- decision makers who are pushing these ventures forward. What
standing of how to address the managerial and organizational are the features of megaprojects that make them so attractive to
challenges involved. There is an urgent need for research, not decision makers and to societies at large? Why do they seem to
only revealing and documenting the many challenges associ- be increasing in numbers despite reports of poor performance?
ated with the management of megaprojects but, equally, more Flyvbjerg (2014) introduced the framework of the four
knowledge about how to cope with them, how to build man- sublimes of megaprojects from which he explained the factors
agement capabilities, and how to improve the cooperation that drive megaproject development and that play a signifi-
and coordination within megaprojects. cant role in megaproject decision making. He identified the
technological, political, economic, and the aesthetic sublimes
Megaprojects as Science and Symbols as the most important ones to explain the rapid expansion of
Megaprojects can be viewed as some of the most interesting the business of the megaproject (see Table 1).
phenomena in social science. They represent the major achieve- An additional reason (or sublime), which has been
ments by collectives to influence the progress and direction of pointed out by Thomas Frey is ‘community pride.’ Frey states
society and the mustering of collective strength to infuse major that “everyone loves to tell stories about the big things their
institutional change. Indeed, launching a megaproject is a way community accomplished” (Frey, 2016, p. 1), of making sure
of getting attention, a way of getting things done—of creating that this particular community is superior to all others. Pro-
dreams and high aspirations. South Africa’s high speed metro- ducing megaprojects constitutes the symbol of such success;
politan transport network has been described as “Glitz, glamour however, there are many challenges looming for those think-
and the Gautrain” and as ‘political symbols’ (Westhuizen, 2007). ing that megaprojects will be the shortcut to success.
Megaprojects typically function as mechanisms to infuse trail
making (Hirschman, 1967)—establishing a new path of develop-
ment and order transformation (Eisenstadt, 1995). Indeed, they Type of Sublime Characteristic
oftentimes operate as institutional projects—spearheading the Technological The excitement engineers and technologists
change of institutional frameworks as well as beliefs and norm derive from pushing the envelope for what is
systems (Holm, 1995). possible in the “longest–tallest–fastest” types
Historically megaprojects have had enormous importance​ of projects.
—ranging from the cathedrals built to protect society from its Political The personal satisfaction politicians get from
worst enemies to current high-tech megaprojects, such as the building monuments to themselves and their
Large Hadron Collider (the world’s largest and most powerful causes, and from the visibility this generates
particle accelerator), launched to ensure the sustainability of with the public and media.
technology and research advancements in physics. In both Economic The prestige business people and trade
these cases, people and experts travel far to take part in these unions get from making lots of money and
important societal projects. The Freemasons travelled to the creating jobs from megaprojects, including
cathedrals, assisting the church and local communities in for contractors, workers in construction and
realizing their dream of a new cathedral; and scientists take transportation, consultants, bankers, investors,
part in various large-scale projects, working as post-doctorates landowners, lawyers, and developers.
and later on as directors of research in building the global Aesthetic The pleasure designers and people who love
knowledge of physics and science. The projects function as good design derive from building and using
“action localities” (Grabher, 2004) that activate latent ties, build something very large that is also iconic and
new ties for collaboration and learning and establish future ties beautiful, such as the Golden Gate Bridge in
shaping the direction of industrial and technological develop- San Francisco, California.
ments. They are important, thus understanding their nature Table 1: The ‘four sublimes’ that drive megaproject development
and dynamics is certainly an important task for social science. (Flyvbjerg, 2017, p. 6).

6  December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal


Why then are megaprojects so challenging? Why are they the average situations. However, average situations are less
so difficult to champion and so difficult to manage? According relevant to irregular situations, such as megaprojects.
to Flyvbjerg (2017), there are ten main factors that decision  9. Megaprojects often fail to account for the complexity
makers and other significant actors working on the implemen- and unplanned events that are inherent in their imple-
tation of megaprojects tend to overlook. We summarize Flyvb- mentation. Individuals are rational but only to a limited
jerg’s main points and discuss them in further detail below. extent (Simon, 1976), and they tend to find it difficult to
fully comprehend the complexity of complex and nested
  1. Megaprojects are inherently risky because of long plan- decision-making and management situations.
ning horizons, nested interfaces, and complexity. It nor- 10. Megaprojects are built on misinformation about costs,
mally takes several decades from the initial planning to schedules, benefits, and risks. The result is “cost overruns,
the completion of the project. delays, and benefit shortfalls that undermine project via-
  2. Megaprojects are often led by planners and managers with- bility during project delivery and operations” (Flyvbjerg,
out complete understanding and domain experience, which 2017, p. 8). This problem tends to lead to challenges for
might create weak leadership and dysfunctional leadership implementation—as problems need to be fixed while
configurations. It is difficult to integrate knowledge across “flying the plane.” Overall, this is a fundamental manage-
professional and disciplinary fields of knowledge. ment problem that often leads to fragile megaprojects—
  3. Megaprojects are typically multi-actor processes involv- megaprojects falling apart because of lack of direction and
ing multiple stakeholders with diverse and conflicting common ground (Merrow, 2011).
institutional backgrounds. It is often difficult to establish
governance mechanisms across institutional regimes and The question is, however, not about why we should do
cultures (see for instance Dille & Söderlund, 2011; Levitt & major planned change and large-scale societal projects, but
Scott, 2017). rather why projects need to be this large, and why we need
  4. Megaprojects often build on non-standard technology and to implement them as ‘projects’—as temporary organizations
design, which shapes a uniqueness bias among planners with defined beginnings and explicit end dates. In that respect,
and managers who tend to see their projects as difficult one might ask: What are the economic and technical ratio-
compared with other projects, thus making it difficult to nales underlying megaprojects? An obvious alternative is to
learn from history and experience. Learning is an inherent implement them as smaller piecemeal initiatives, as a series of
problem in the context of megaprojects—learning from one small-scale projects. This kind of analysis renders many more
or fewer (March, Sproull, & Tamuz, 1991) is a common situa- theoretical triggers and represents a key question pertaining to
tion in megaproject contexts (see also Prencipe & Tell, 2001). why a particular phenomenon exists in the first place. Similar
  5. Megaprojects are typically overcommitted and centered explorations and debates have taken place in many other fields
on a specific kind of project concept at an early stage, cre- of scientific inquiry, including why cities exist, why nations
ating various kinds of lock-ins, leaving no room for alter- exist, why tribes exist, why communities exist, and so forth. The
natives. This could lead decision makers to give priority to question for management and organization scholars obviously
less favorable megaprojects as the weakest one runs the relates to classic debates about why large firms exist—what are
risk of surviving, only because it arrived at the table earlier the advantages of the scale and scope of megaprojects? This
than the better ones. also paves the way for an analysis of the managerial and organi-
  6. Megaprojects are like big businesses, which might create zational challenges associated with them (Söderlund, 2011b).
principal–agent problems and optimism bias. It is difficult We know a great deal about their importance, we are becoming
to evaluate performance, cause–effect relationships, and increasingly aware of their prevalence, and we certainly know
to govern performance, since there are so many factors a lot about their problems. We know far less, however, about
potentially influencing a particular cause of action. their management and organization. This needs to change.
  7. Megaproject scope and ambition levels will change signifi-
cantly during the life of the project. Actors learning something The Progress of Megaproject Research
along the way, solutions that were thought of as fitting turn The research on megaprojects has also developed rapidly in
out to be obsolete, and other things enter the project at a later recent years, reflecting the importance and progress they have
stage as features that are critical for the up-to-date standard made in society at large. A number of special issues have
of the systems that the megaproject is supposed to deliver. appeared in scholarly journals, creating an abundant amount
  8. Megaprojects are high-risk activities with overexposure to of literature on megaprojects, for example, the International
“black swans” (Taleb, 2007)—extreme events with massively Journal of Project Management (2011 and 2017), Organization,
negative outcomes. For megaprojects, rare and improbable Technology and Management in Construction (2012), Interna-
events occur more often than we tend to think. Individuals’ tional Journal of Architecture Engineering and Construction
way of thinking is typically limited in scope and focused on (2014), Journal of Management and Engineering (2015), Urban

December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal  7


The Past and Present of Megaprojects

Policy and Research (2017), and the International Journal of on what happens when they emerge, when they are imple-
Managing Projects in Business (2018). It is especially encouraging mented, and when the dreams meet reality.
to see that megaprojects have taken a more prominent role in Initially, we also thought we would relate and build on
management and organization studies (Van Marrewijk, 2015) as the idea of various sublimes in megaproject management and
well as economic geography (Grabher & Thiel, 2014; Rasagam, the effects that these sublimes have on the management of
Engman, Gurcanlar, & Fernandes, 2014) and urban planning these projects. The original idea of sublimes in megaprojects
(Steele, 2017). Despite the impressive and important progress— stemmed from Flyvbjerg’s article published in Project Man-
with a number of achievements made related to better stories agement Journal (Flyvbjerg, 2014), and the article has since
(more empirical examples, intriguing case studies, etc.) as well received much attention from project scholars and other
as better constructs (more fine-grained theoretical approaches, management and organization scholars. We thus thought it
developed perspectives, etc.)—there remains a dearth of detailed was timely and the appropriate scholarly context from which
stories of major projects shaping society and the theories we to advance some of these ideas further. Several authors in this
might rely on to understand and explain their nature and dynam- special issue have referred to these sublimes in their articles
ics. The idea with this special issue was to push the boundaries of and have tried to address the effects that these sublimes have
megaproject management research. In that respect this issue was on the management and leadership of projects.
guided by a set of intentions we wanted to achieve. From history we know that megaprojects have played a
First, our intention was to advance the theoretical dis- significant role in creating the society in which we live. The
course on megaproject management, beyond simply pre- large-scale and pre-industrial canal projects constitute some
senting empirical accounts and statistics of megaproject of the most profound mechanisms for shaping technological
performance. Instead we thought it would be important to progress in large parts of the world. Many of the pre-industrial
drive the discussion around explicit theoretical debates on megaprojects educated project managers, which in subse-
how to understand the nature and dynamics of these projects. quent projects were instrumental in keeping the large-scale
We were interested in inviting scholars from a broad range of projects on track. This in turn led to the advancement of
disciplines—including management and organization stud- capabilities to run even larger projects, which was epitomized
ies, but also history, anthropology, sociology, urban studies, in the development and construction of the railway systems in
engineering, and economic geography—to cover the vibrancy the Western world during the mid-19th century, and moving
of current research on megaprojects. The intention with the further with a range of infrastructure and other construction
special issue is thus to make the management of these projects projects, which paved the way for the industrial revolution in
also a concern for scholars outside the narrower field of project many countries around the globe. People did not talk about
management (see, for example, Geraldi & Söderlund, 2017). megaprojects back then but they certainly worked on them;
The second intention was to advance the use of empirical many of these historic projects were in relative terms larger
approaches by revisiting history. We know that history is replete than the megaprojects we see taking form in society today.
with fascinating examples of megaprojects and that these proj- That said, encouraging the historical exploration into mega-
ects are still open for empirical research. Much information about projects seems important—to see what we can learn from
many of these projects is still available in books, reports, and so history, to see what in-depth stories of how these projects
forth; however, they have yet to receive attention from a schol- came into fruition and how they emerged seems to be an
arly point of view by trying to untangle the challenges associated important task for management and organization scholars
with their management. In that respect, we were inspired by the (Scranton, 2014). Clearly, this means that we need to recreate
special issue edited by Söderlund and Lenfle (2013) on project these megaproject stories by visiting the books and reports
history; although we wanted to move beyond that, by focusing written about them, the stories told by the people who popu-
explicitly on the project level, the identification of projects that lated these projects. We do not know what is in these data and
have shaped the future, and explicitly address megaprojects. stories and what they might lead to in terms of theoretical
Third, we were interested in their management, not just insights, but it is worth collecting and analyzing them with
the decision-making processes preceding these projects, but a project organizing mindset (Söderlund & Lenfle, 2013;
specifically: How can we understand the ways in which these Sankaran, 2018)—by looking at these projects not as objects,
projects are managed? In this respect, we were interested not as outputs, but as processes of organizing, as emerging
in the inner functioning and processes of megaprojects— organizational entities, and action localities for the intermin-
how they are managed, led, and organized. By emphasizing gling of politics and power (Clegg & Kreiner, 2013).
the importance of what goes on in projects, we are moving We also know that scholars from a wide range of disci-
beyond the conventional approaches to what goes on before plines have taken interest in megaprojects—initially primarily in
megaprojects are launched or after they are completed. domains such as urban planning and engineering, but increas-
Accordingly, we were interested in transcending the tradi- ingly so in areas such as sociology and business administration.
tional scope of research on megaprojects by including more It is also interesting to see the progress being made in research

8  December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal


into megaprojects at some of the leading universities and busi- Levitt & Scott, 2017; Chi, Chen, & Shi, 2014; Mahalingam &
ness schools in the world, including Saïd Business School at Levitt, 2007) to better understand and explain the coopera-
Oxford University, BI Norwegian Business School, the University tion and coordination problems in megaprojects (Söderlund,
of Technology Sydney, the University of Québec at Montreal, 2011b). Focusing particularly on the cooperation problems
University College London, the University of Pennsylvania, and conflicts among stakeholders, scholars have suggested
and the University of Manchester—all schools engaged in the applying social conflict theory to address the challenges
development of centers of excellence to drive research on observed in megaprojects (Jia, Yang, Wang, Hong, & You,
megaprojects further. In this respect, it is interesting because as 2011). Recently, scholars have also developed frameworks
organizational phenomena megaprojects have emerged as fer- and theories to address innovation in megaprojects as a par-
tile cross-disciplinary grounds for the exchange of ideas across ticular context for innovation studies (e.g., Davies, Dodgson,
a wide range of domains, ranging from engineering, science, to Gann, & MacAulay, 2017). These examples demonstrate that
social science. This is a path recently created and a path that megaprojects are more than merely empirical phenomena,
hopefully will continue to guide scholars in the decades to come. they also constitute interesting and distinct phenomena upon
which scholars can try out existing theories and develop new
The Future of Megaproject Research ones, analytically pondering their salient features.
There are at least four pressing and critical issues in mega- Second, we need to know more about what goes on in
project management research. First, their existence and megaprojects—how they are managed and organized, from
prevalence; second, their management and organization; within, by the managers who are tasked with bringing them to
third, their success and performance, or under-performance; fruition. In that respect, we need to understand how manag-
and a fourth issue, which has become increasingly important ers implementing large-scale projects deal with the sublimes
at academic conferences and in public debate over the last often associated with them, of over-optimism and of realizing
few years, relates to the future of megaprojects and how they the project from dreams through to reality. These are trouble-
address major societal challenges. laden journeys in which managers rarely have positive news
First, as mentioned earlier, we need to have many more to tell to the people involved or to the stakeholders observing
detailed discussions about why megaprojects exist—not why the progress of the project. How do managers deal with such
people want to do certain things (improve, change, etc.) but a situation of “managing in head-wind,” constantly facing
why they choose to do things through the mechanism of bad news and negative deviations? How do they establish
projects, and why they want to group these initiatives and cooperation and coordination in such contexts? How do they
actions into large-scale projects, oftentimes even megaproj- drive innovation in such management situations? Answering
ects, and beyond. This requires more theoretical scrutiny and these questions, certainly requires an in-depth understand-
discussions—not only empirical stories, which are desper- ing of the actuality of megaprojects. Getting more into the
ately needed, but also awareness of the larger social science actual occurrences, the nested processes of managing and
literature in economics and organization theory (Söderlund, organizing in megaprojects are critical concerns for manage-
2011a). These inquiries might relate to economics-based ment and organization studies (Davies et al., 2017). Thus
explanations pertaining to transaction cost theory; they might far, too much research has been focused on looking at them
relate to the mustering of capabilities, the handling of inter- from an outside-in perspective, of looking at the black box of
faces, and complexity; they might obviously also relate to megaproject management. Too little attention has been paid
power issues. Engaging more in the theory of megaprojects is to what happens inside this black box of megaprojects, how
an important feat for management and organizational schol- managers work to establish functioning regimes for coop-
arship. Using extant theories of organizations and ‘firms’ and eration, the relevant mechanisms for coordination, and the
exploring in what sense they might inform our understanding ongoing practice of managers coping with the challenges of
of megaprojects is obviously one important path for research. getting the megaprojects in place. This needs to change.
However, developing new approaches and unique theories of Third, how do megaprojects perform? We often hear
megaprojects is just as important in order to be able to dem- consultants and scholars complaining about the underper-
onstrate in what respect megaproject research might con- formance of megaprojects. This is expected. It is their job
tribute to wider management and organization theory, and and a simple way of telling the world that their services are
to social science at large. For these reasons, we need bolder needed and important. However, is it true and how would we
attempts to develop better theories of megaprojects. These know? Why are we so much worse at managing megaprojects
efforts are just beginning to take shape in the organization than other kinds of organizational ventures? Because they
studies and project management literatures. In recent years, are more complex and difficult? Because we fail to learn from
scholars writing about megaprojects have been relying to an experience? Or because the proper instruments for evaluating
increasing extent on institutional theories (Biesenthal, Clegg, their performance are lacking? Oftentimes we hear the story
Mahalingam, & Sankaran, 2017; Dille & Söderlund, 2011; about ‘on time and on budget’ as being the most important

December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal  9


The Past and Present of Megaprojects

parameters of measuring success. We rarely use the same is the case. Do megaprojects really solve the mega-problems
parameters when evaluating and discussing the performance of society? Are megaprojects the right solution? And if they
of other ventures and organizations. Why? Why are these are, do we have the right projects to solve the most critical
parameters the most relevant in the context of megaprojects? problems in our society? This obviously makes it even more
Consider the case of Norway (see for instance, Volden & important to create projects that will address the United
­Samset, 2017). We know that their strategic and operational Nation’s primary goals concerning poverty, climate change,
success have improved considerably over the last few years— economic inequity, and terrorism. Which problems are best
if, that is, we look at how they performed in relation to the solved by megaprojects? Which problems are best handled
projected numbers. However, we rarely compare megaprojects by programs? Which problems are best handled by a portfolio
with each other. How much is a relevant sum for developing of smaller projects? And which problems are best handled
and building a new bridge in one country compared with without the aid of projects? These are all essential questions,
the total cost for a similar bridge in another country? Which which brings us back to the start of this discussion: Why do
country is best when it comes to the performance of their projects exist? This should then hopefully help us understand
megaprojects? Is it then only relevant to compare if they reach not only why megaprojects exist, but also in what sense they
the stated objectives? Is this a measure we would consider to differ, how they behave, the value of the management of these
be relevant when comparing other kinds of organizations and projects, and what factors determine their success or failure
ventures, such as corporations? Of course not. Nonetheless, (see Söderlund, 2004). All these questions are essential for
they are frequently the ones we use in the context of megaproj- developing better theories of megaprojects.
ects, because we have not worked hard enough to find mea-
sures that are relevant and instrumental. This needs to change. Advancing Megaproject Research
Fourth, and perhaps the most important issue for research This special issue contains seven interesting articles, which
on megaprojects, is in what respect megaprojects contribute in various ways contribute to the literature on megaprojects.
to solving the major problems in society. These projects cost After a thorough review process and much help from
a lot of money; they consume enormous amounts of resources reviewers, we were able to accept seven articles written by
and attention; hence we should expect them to deliver value scholars from around the world (see Table 2).
to society and the organizations and individuals involved in Rego, Irigaray, and Chaves investigate how symbolic
them. In some cases, one might wonder whether this really megaprojects were conceived, implemented, and delivered

Authors Title Theoretical Angle Primary Empirical Material


Rego, Irigaray, and Symbolic Megaprojects: Historical Evidence of a Combination of Content analysis of archival data of three
Chaves Forgotten Dimension historical analysis and landmark projects in the development of
organization theory Rio de Janeiro
van Marrewijk The Multivocality of Symbols: A Longitudinal Power and politics Ethnographic study of a high-speed train project
Study on the Symbolic Dimensions of the High- theory in the Netherlands
Speed Train Megaproject (1995–2015)
Shenhar and Holzmann The Three Secrets of Megaproject Success: Contingency theory Multiple case study of successful megaprojects
Clear Strategic Vision, Total Alignment, and
Adapting to Complexity
Harris Competitive Precinct Projects: The Five Urban planning theory Review of 42 mixed-use megaprojects
Consistent Criticisms of ‘Global’ Mixed-Use
Megaprojects
Steen, Ford, and Symbols, Sublimes, Solutions, and Problems: Decision-making Australian oil and gas megaprojects
Verreynne A Garbage Can Model of Megaprojects theory
Eskerod and Ang Stakeholder Value Constructs in Megaprojects: Value and stakeholder Historical study of the Astoria-Megler Bridge
A Long-Term Assessment Case Study theory
Gillett and Tennent Dynamic Sublimes, Changing Plans, and the Institutional theory Historical study of the 1966 FIFA World Cup
Legacy of the 1966 Soccer World Cup
Söderlund A Reflection of the State-of-the-Art in Megaproject Conceptual/review Book chapters in The Oxford Handbook of
Research: The Oxford Handbook of Megaproject Megaproject Management
Management, Edited by Bent Flyvbjerg
Table 2: Overview of the articles.

10  December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal


in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil over two centuries, culminating delays and cost overruns. The article demonstrates how proj-
in the Rio Olympics in 2016. They use a historical analysis ect management scholars can conduct a historical analysis
approach to addressing symbolic projects shaping urban of megaprojects that can contribute to project management
renewal in the 1950s to clean up the city, improve its sani- studies (Söderlund & Lenfle, 2013).
tary conditions, and create a Parisian atmosphere. Then Rather than investigating why megaprojects fail, Shenhar
followed the construction of the Flamengo Embankment, a and Holzmann (2017) study why some megaprojects suc-
public park and the Perimetral in 1960s in conjunction with ceed; specifically, they attempt to identify ingredients of and
a major event—the International Eucharistic Congress. The commonalities among successful megaprojects. To do so, the
next notable symbolic project was the Porto Maravilha, which authors review the ambiguous literature on project success
was completed at the start of this century as a program to that proposes a multitude of perspectives on what project
build a major port and much-needed infrastructure to create success is and how we can evaluate it. Following the multiple
a modern image of Rio de Janeiro as a great city of the world in perspectives, the article determines four dimensions, based
preparation for hosting two major international mega-events: on which they analyze the success of megaprojects. The four
the FIFA World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016. These dimensions are: efficiency, impact on customer, business/
large projects had, according to the authors, all the hallmarks financial success, and impact on society.
of the four sublimes—political, economic, technological, and The article uses a multiple case-study approach to quali-
aesthetic—mentioned by Flyvbjerg (2014). Rego, Irigaray, and tatively explore commonalities among successful projects.
Chaves also portray the materialization of Rio’s megaprojects The study includes multiple data collection methods to iden-
as a phenotype evolving from the project’s genotype charac- tify relevant case studies, such as content analysis, interviews,
terized by culture, attributes, people, environment, and tech- and expert judgment. Following a step-wise analysis, the
nology (Joslin & Müller, 2013). The authors demonstrate the authors produce a list of 14 case studies, which were deemed
interaction among the sublimes and how they influence the successful in at least some of the aforementioned dimensions
emergence of megaprojects. of success. After finalizing the list, the authors’ objective was
Alfons Van Marrewijk analyzes a high-speed train (HST) to identify the vital factors responsible for the achievements
megaproject in the Netherlands, demonstrating how power of the most successful megaprojects. In order to do so, they
and politics can have an adverse effect on its progress (Clegg, reviewed the literature to come up with a list of 37 success
Sankaran, Biesenthal, & Pollack, 2017). The article’s focus factors that could help to explain megaproject success. Then,
is on exegetical meanings that have significant impacts on the authors performed an iterative cluster analysis to reduce
social, cultural, and political situations and processes. Using the number of factors until no further reduction was feasible.
an anthropological approach, the author captures the mean- Ultimately, the authors identify three distinct and unre-
ing of failures that occurred in the HST megaproject scenario lated elements that can explain the success of megaprojects,
as multi-vocal, which changed over time and represented namely having a clear strategic vision, total alignment of all
strategic power struggles among key stakeholders. The meth- relevant stakeholders, and the ability to adapt to complexity.
odology used is a decade-long longitudinal ethnographic Based on their findings, the authors suggest that success-
study to arrive at a ‘verstehen’ of the social reality of the ful megaprojects are able to integrate all three elements; that
megaproject as it was constructed by its stakeholders. is, a clear vision is set and communicated to all those who
The failures of the megaproject occurred in its three goals, are involved or may be impacted by the project. Relevant
which were derived as meanings attributed from an analysis stakeholders embrace that vision and are totally aligned with
of the data collected: HST as a radical, innovative contract it, which includes knowing the roles and responsibilities
introducing public–private partnerships in the rail sector; required to achieve that vision. Last, complex challenges are
as an intervention in the Dutch rail sector to break down its identified and addressed appropriately. According to Shenhar
monopolistic position; and as a lynchpin of the rail trans- and Holzmann, these three elements are what successful
port business for the Netherlands in the European transport megaprojects have in common.
sector. All four sublimes proposed by Flyvbjerg (2014)—the Harris’ article on competitive precinct projects offers a
technological, political, economic, and aesthetic acted as systematic review of empirical studies of the key issues cre-
drivers for the four public organizations that participated in ated by the rapid growth of mixed-use megaprojects in cities
the project. (that tend to be large enough to be called a ‘precinct’), which
The article shows how the exegetical meanings acted do not seem to be good examples of urban planning. He
to legitimize the arenas for power struggles often found in argues that these megaprojects are motivated by city-based
megaprojects (Clegg & Kreiner, 2013). The symbolic ambi- international competition; mobility and growth of knowledge
tions of the HST project turned out to be unrealistic due to economies, creating pressures on urban space; redirection of
failed liberalization, incapability to meet the challenges, investment from physical to human capital; and the dominat-
exhibiting civil resistance to change, and causing both time ing role of politics, driving a market-rule ideology.

December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal  11


The Past and Present of Megaprojects

His review of the empirical research, focusing on 42 mixed- decision-making failure; from a GCM perspective, however,
use megaprojects, reveals five consistent issues: introverted the results can be explained through the lens of conflicting
project-led governance that circumvent local planning frame- agendas and solutions to a stream of multiple problems.
works; international marketing for talent tending to obscure In summary, Steen and his co-authors identify differences
local issues; spatial and social disconnection due to follow- between members of the supply chain in the Australian oil and
ing the money and creating barriers between the new and gas industry in terms of what they perceive as major barriers
the old; generic urbanity through imitation irrespective of to meeting business objectives. Their study is therefore a valu-
the context in which they are being built; and lack of public able snapshot of the perceptions of those firms that make up
benefit caused by the rhetoric of delivery. He attributes this to the industry supply chain, ranging from owner/operators of
the emergence of neoliberal-oriented development practices. the project through to construction firms and other businesses.
Harris argues that these competitive precinct megaproj- Eskerod and Ang, in their article on stakeholder value
ects are a missed opportunity in good urban planning as they constructs, explain how to understand, classify and express
fail to provide housing and employment opportunities in megaproject stakeholder values using the example of the
areas of cities that are already associated with neglect; miss- Astoria-Megler Bridge connecting states of Washington and
ing an opportunity to increase value through rezoning indus- Oregon, which had its 50th anniversary in 2016. They use the
trial or residential land; and achieving synergy through lack of four sublimes proposed by Flyvbjerg (2014) and value con-
coordination with other major government assets or projects. structs derived from research conducted by Ang to analyze
Harris also contributes to the urban planning literature the case study of a symbolic bridge (Ang & Killen, 2016). They
by suggesting alternative directions for building competitive try to provide an answer to the often asked question: ‘How do
precinct projects by developing principles-based project you measure the success of a megaproject?’ by extending its
frameworks that can overcome the five criticisms addressed evaluation beyond the conventional project close-out stage
in the article and establishing monitoring practices and into its impact stage (Turner & Zolin, 2014).
adequate accountability to ensure they are being followed The article uses a single case study of a rich and pow-
and using a more contextual evaluation of such projects. The erful case with multiple sources of evidence using online
contribution this article makes to the project management videos, websites, and photographs in addition to interviews
literature is by addressing the dangers of projectification in and observations. Data analysis using the four sublimes
urban planning (Book, Eskilsson, & Khan, 2010), and thus showed that the bridge provided evidence of a technological
criticizing the underlying rationale for organizing develop- sublime by having the longest continuous truss span in the
ment through large-scale projects. world; the political sublime was used as a means of political
Steen, Verreynne, and Ford’s (2017) article aims to model promise during an election by the then Governor of Oregon;
the decision-making and problem-solving process in a more the growth in the tourism industry contributed to the eco-
dynamic and realistic way, which overcomes the idea of ratio- nomic sublime; and the delight of the local stakeholders and
nality in organizations. According to the authors, rational tourists served as the aesthetic sublime. The two value con-
choice models of planning and decision making are domi- structs that were prominent during the analysis were that the
nant in the megaproject literature, but have limited utility bridge provided ‘generative value’ for local communities by
in explaining the problems of complex megaprojects. To unlocking development opportunities in the longer term and
overcome those rational models, the article draws on Cohen, ‘retrospective-reflective-future oriented value’ evident from
March, and Olsen’s (1972) garbage can model (GCM). Spe- the passionate speeches made during the celebration of the
cifically, the authors use this model as a way of explaining 50th anniversary of the bridge.
the differences in problems identified by businesses that are This article contributes a ‘value language’ to project man-
attributed to megaproject delays and cost overruns in the agement researchers and practitioners to gain a better under-
Australian oil and gas industry. standing of the value that a megaproject can provide while
Steen et al. (2017) use quantitative methods and compare engaging with its stakeholders. It can further help in evaluat-
media reports from business and industry associations with ing the success of a megaproject from a ‘value perspective,’
survey data. The results are produced from the mean rank which extends beyond the traditional measures of project
exercise and indicate that, although megaproject execu- success often discussed in the context of megaprojects.
tives focus their attention on solutions that involve external Gillett and Tennent use the 1966 FIFA World Cup to
parties, such as government and labor unions, the prob- investigate megaprojects and demonstrate how sports mega-
lems within the projects that are prioritized by managers events can achieve multiple tangible and intangible benefits,
of firms within the supply chain network are actually quite even beyond the original vision. Since the actual realized
different and relate more closely to the performance of the benefits, the outputs and outcomes from sports mega-events
project. According to the authors, this finding is inexpli- can differ from what was proposed, the authors use multiple
cable from a rational choice perspective without concluding theoretical lenses to capture the multiplicity of benefits that

12  December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal


can occur. In particular, they use Flyvbjerg’s (2014) four Despite the fact that some of the articles focus on project fail-
sublimes model and Geraldi and Morris’ (2011) framework ure (e.g., van Marrewijk) and others on project success (e.g.,
of project management levels to identify a wide range of Shenhar & Holzmann) there are clear commonalities across
potential drivers of megaprojects, which provide a basis for the articles concerning the importance of the so-called soft
evaluating project success. aspects of performance. In particular, the articles reveal that
The 1966 FIFA World Cup, which was held in England, is there are different ‘soft’ drivers of megaproject success (i.e.,
an interesting and relevant case, which provides them with success factors). For example, van Marrewijk identifies power
a temporal perspective that allows the researchers to inves- struggles, resistance to change, and institutional differences
tigate the longitudinal scope and effects of a project while as the main reasons why the project described in this article
avoiding certain political and ethical concerns of researching failed. Steen and co-authors show that conflicting agendas
contemporary megaprojects. Gillett and Tennent utilize an across the supply chain in megaprojects lead to problems and
inductively based archival research approach and draw upon poor performance. Shenhar and Holzmann argue that stra-
project documents, along with periodicals and secondary tegic vision, total alignment of all relevant stakeholders, and
sources, such as autobiographies. In the first step, the authors the ability to adapt to complexity drive project success. While
performed an archival analysis of the main three project the factors identified by Shenhar and Holzmann are both
phases; then, the authors examined the original propos- inwardly and outwardly focused, van Marrewijk’s and Steen
als, the revised plan, and what actually happened; in the et al.’s articles are more inwardly focused, all are primarily
third step, they researched the project network to determine concerned with soft performance aspects. We find the same
contextual factors (e.g., institutional) in which the project pattern when it comes to success criteria. While several of the
took place. underperforming megaprojects described in the studies are
Based on the results of their research, the article argues classified as such due to time and cost overruns, the articles
that a broader view of the factors need to be taken into in our special issue show that a broader perspective of project
account when evaluating megaprojects as successes or fail- success is necessary when evaluating megaprojects. Such a
ures over time, including their symbolic impact on national broader perspective goes beyond the standard triple con-
identity and status or international relations. In addition, straints and incorporates aspects such as value and benefits.
the authors find that the temporal nature of implementing More precisely, Eskerod and Ang introduce the two value
megaprojects is quite dynamic, which means the strategic constructs of ‘generative value’ and ‘retrospective-reflective-
and institutional context changes (or can change) over the future oriented value’ to better evaluate megaproject per-
course of the project. Hence, the article argues for a dynamic formance. In the same vein, Gillett and Tennent show that
understanding of the nature of megaproject management and a broader view of the factors needs to be taken into account
its performance evaluation. when evaluating megaprojects. The authors specifically use
Concluding this special issue is a short article by the notion of tangible and intangible benefits. In addition,
Söderlund. Söderlund delivers a reflection of the state-of- both articles promote the idea that performance evaluation
the-art in megaproject management based on the recently needs to (also) be done after the close-out stage of the proj-
published The Oxford Handbook of Megaproject Manage- ect. More specifically, Eskerod and Ang call for performance
ment edited by Bent Flyvbjerg. The editor-in-chief of Project measurement in the impact stage, whereas Gillett and Ten-
Management Journal, Hans Georg Gemünden, asked Jonas nent promote that success or failure needs to be considered
Söderlund to provide such a reflective piece in the context of over time in general. In short, not only are the measures of
this special issue in order to link the contributions of this spe- performance slightly different, the timing also needs to be
cial issue with the recently published handbook. As we men- reconsidered for megaprojects.
tioned earlier, this special issue was inspired by the sublimes In terms of methodology, we find that a wide range
developed by Bent Flyvbjerg, and these sublimes have also of mostly qualitative methods were used, such as ethnog-
influenced several chapters in the new handbook. The inten- raphies, single and multiple case studies, interviews, and
tion was to integrate both pieces of work and to disseminate inductive archival analysis. Only one article (Steen et al.) uses
the work of the authors and the editor of the new handbook. quantitative methods when comparing media reports from
The intention was also to encourage a discussion about the business and industry associations with survey data. The
book’s implications for future research. focus on qualitative methods seems natural, observing the
In sum, a critical analysis of all articles in this special issue constraints of gathering sufficient quantitative data in a field
shows some interesting insights about megaprojects and where access is difficult due to political reasons, the sheer
megaproject research. The overarching theme of most articles number of megaprojects that occur in a particular geographic
is performance, and this special issue highlights the complex area is limited, and project-specific data that can be used
and multifaceted nature of performance, not only in terms of for quantitative work are highly confidential. The increas-
drivers, but also in ways in which performance is assessed. ing use of a mixture of research methods is another positive

December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal  13


The Past and Present of Megaprojects

theme that can be observed in this issue. For example, due drivers of megaprojects, which can help us understand the
to the long-term impact of megaprojects, multiple studies ways in which we should manage them. We need to better
used research methods that allowed them to investigate the understand how managers shape, implement, and manage
nature of megaprojects and their impact over time, including large-scale projects in accordance with the sublimes. When
Eskerod and Ang who evaluated a megaproject over a 50-year it comes to the soft factors, some of the main problems are
period from the time it was delivered; van Marrewijk who did over-optimistic assumptions about realizing the project from
a longitudinal ethnographic study; and Gillett and Tennent the dream stage through to reality, especially when factors
who use archival data to investigate the longitudinal effect close to our personal belief system or agenda drive projects.
of a megaproject. The variety of methods used in the differ- In these cases, objective assessments of how things should
ent articles suggests that megaprojects need to be viewed be done, how long it takes, or how much it might cost, might
from different perspectives, using different angles in order pave the way for the subjective assessments of such aspects.
to increase our understanding of megaprojects as a cultural If this is the case, megaprojects need to be managed and
ecosystem by studying the interconnected organizational ele- assessed differently. In addition, if political or subjectivity
ments of megaprojects in their wider institutional contexts as plays such a major role in megaprojects, appropriate research
suggested by Kusuma (2014). methods need to be chosen to investigate such issues.
Third, we believe our studies indicate the importance of
Emerging Insights using relevant empirical methods when doing research in
In summary, the main insights gleaned from this special issue the field of megaprojects. We are quite optimistic about the
are as follows. First, while the notion of multiple success following possibilities of doing empirical research on mega-
factors and success criteria is not new to the field of project projects, as we foresee two trajectories. One trajectory relates
management and, in fact, constitutes one of the most widely to the ongoing need to explore megaprojects in-depth—from
discussed topics in the area, it seems more important than various angles using various types of data. Anthropological
ever. The magnitude of megaprojects with regard to their research is certainly one alternative here, as seen in the work
duration and impact beyond the close-out stage is much by van Marrewijk and colleagues (van Marrewijk, 2015). This
greater than what we have seen in the past. It is therefore research may benefit from a historical approach as this allows
becoming increasingly important to assess projects and their for insights and ways to zoom in on the actions and interac-
impacts at different times and based on different criteria to tions observed. We believe that more qualitative studies,
be able to fully evaluate their performance. At this stage, it is such as in-depth case studies or ethnographies are necessary
necessary to link the discussion back to the four critical points to unveil the political and power relations in megaprojects,
we highlighted earlier and, in particular, the aspect of future. which seemingly drive many megaprojects. The main chal-
If megaprojects are indeed a way to solve societal issues and lenge is that these aspects need to be observed over time
change the world in which we live, we cannot expect changes because such research projects take three to four years. This
to take place immediately. These changes will take place over presents a major practical obstacle for many researchers. The
longer periods of time and will, hopefully, fulfill what they are articles in this special issue demonstrate how longitudinal
set out to do, but that cannot be assessed immediately after research can occur despite those constraints.
the project has been completed. When it comes to improv- The second trajectory is the building of larger data sets
ing the overall quality of life and well-being of the people and analyzing them by using qualitative and quantitative
and planet, it might be hard to measure success based on a methods. One way to go about this is to develop unique
monetary value. While this is certainly not what businesses databases about megaprojects that cover different aspects
strive for, most megaprojects are either driven or subsidized of megaprojects, including financial and demographic data
by political stakeholders, which means that success or failure as well as behavioral data, based on theoretical concepts. In
is not solely to be covered by organizations. addition, more research could use existing databases that
Second, the articles in our special issue demonstrate that provide relevant quantitative and qualitative information that
success is often driven by political and/or power-related fac- could be used to assess the performance of the project. Gillett
tors. This relates particularly to the topic of how megaprojects and Tennent provide a useful example in this special issue of
are managed. Seeing the highly political nature of stakehold- how this could be done. Generally, there seems to be a major
ers across the supply chain with different underlying objec- lack of quantitative studies in the field of project management,
tives, the hard success factors do not seem to be enough which provides a major opportunity to further test the theo-
anymore. This unique setup calls for innovative governance retical assumptions generated by qualitative research.
solutions that align stakeholder interests in a complex envi- Finally, and as outlined above, we believe focusing on the
ronment with a large number of key players. Flyvbjerg’s future of megaprojects is one of the most crucial issues. One
(2014) four sublimes is a relevant, but not exhaustive, frame- of the main themes in relation to the future are the challenges
work and starting point for such investigations of the different of sustainability and how megaprojects will cope with external

14  December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal


industrial influences such as digitization and automation. Cohen, M. D., March, J. G., & Olsen, J. P. (1972). A garbage
Megaprojects are not only temporary organizations but also can model of organizational choice. Administrative Science
temporary structures, which is especially visible in cases when Quarterly, 17(1), 1–25.
stadiums are built for certain sports events, such as the FIFA Davies, A., Dodgson, M., Gann, D. M., & MacAulay, S. (2017).
World Cup or the Olympics. In these cases, it is vital to address Five rules for managing large, complex projects. MIT Sloan
the future of the project beyond its actual use, which is nor- Management Review, 58(1). (In Press)
mally very short-lived. For example, pictures of the modern Desjardins, J. (2017). Nine of the world’s largest megaprojects
‘ruins’ of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, tell a that are under construction. Business Insider, January 11, 2017.
powerful story. Calls for building sustainable megaprojects
Dille, T., & Söderlund, J. (2011). Managing inter-institutional
that stand the test of time are more than valid. How can we
projects: The significance of isochronism, timing norms and
build megastructures for a specific purpose that can also be
temporal misfits. International Journal of Project Management,
used for other purposes, transformed into something different,
29(4), 480–490.
or deconstructed quite easily? One of the most recent success
stories is the London Olympics, which had a strong strategic Eisenstadt, S. N. (1995). The order-transforming and order-
agenda around the issues of sustainability and was able to maintaining dimensions of culture. In S. N. Eisenstadt, Power,
utilize the results of the respective projects (i.e., venues) long trust, and meaning. Chicago, IL: Chicago University Press.
after the fanfare of the event itself had passed. In particular, Flyvbjerg, B. (2014). What you should know about
the city utilized partly existing venues, built venues with its megaprojects and why: An overview. Project Management
short-term legacy in mind, or found future users for new ven- Journal, 45(2), 6–19.
ues in the early stages of the project. These, however, are just Flyvbjerg, B. (2017). Introduction: The iron law of megaproject
some examples of which sustainable aspects were used and management. In B. Flyvbjerg (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of
incorporated in that particular megaproject at a holistic level. megaproject management. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press,
Being able to sustainably transform a large area and produc- 1–18.
ing new jobs for a relatively long period of time could be one Flyvbjerg, B., Bruzelius, N., & Rothengatter, W. (2003).
of the strongest selling points for megaprojects, which clearly Megaprojects and risk: An anatomy of ambition. Cambridge,
underscores the relevance of the future of megaprojects. UK: Cambridge University Press.

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The Past and Present of Megaprojects

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16  December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal


PAPERS Symbolic Megaprojects: Historical
Evidence of a Forgotten Dimension
Marcos Lopez Rego, Brazilian School of Public and Business Administration—FGV, Rio de
Janeiro, Brazil
Helio Arthur Reis Irigaray, Brazilian School of Public and Business Administration—FGV, Rio de
Janeiro, Brazil
Renato Lago P. Chaves, Brazilian School of Public and Business Administration—FGV, Rio de
Janeiro, Brazil

ABSTRACT ■ INTRODUCTION

M
egaprojects have become a subject of growing interest in project
By combining an historical analysis of three
management research, not only in terms of theoretical advances
megaprojects and an organizational theory
but also due to the number of megaprojects from different sectors
approach based on the notion of symbolism-
and applications currently executed around the world. According
intensive organizations, this research attempts
to Flyvbjerg (2014), a conservative estimate of the world’s expenditures
to shed light on how symbols are constructed,
on megaprojects over the past ten years ranges from US$6 to US$9 trillion
communicated, translated, and captured in
dollars per year, or about 8% of the global gross domestic product (GDP).
megaprojects. We conclude that, when it
Megaprojects include urban mobility, airports, healthcare systems, nuclear
comes to symbolic projects, a number of proj-
and hydropower plants, offshore oil and gas platforms, and major events such
ect features may not be mirrored in the out-
as the Olympic Games, among others.
come’s observable traits. We propose a novel
Megaproject management deals with structures and processes of higher
analysis dimension: the symbolism-intensive
complexity compared with the management of smaller projects, which refer
project; in other words, projects that are car-
to stakeholder, risk, and technology management, project governance, as well
ried out aimed at delivering long-awaited
as general systems and temporary organization theories. The seminal work of
needs, a supreme mission, annihilation of
Flyvbjerg (2014) identifies four main elements or sublimes: political, techno-
the past, or even the reification of heroes, or
logical, economic, and aesthetic. We propose a new construct so as to better
success.
understand megaprojects: the symbolism-intensive project. This article is
based on the descriptions and analyses of three radical urban interventions,
KEYWORDS: megaprojects; symbolic
which occurred in downtown Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, each taking place approx-
projects; project sublimes; symbolism-
imately 50 years apart. Drawing on the definition of symbolism-intensive
intensive projects
organizations (Wood Jr., 2000; Alvesson & Spicer, 2012), the symbolism-
intensive project is presented as a novel analytic lens for the interpretation of
the real beliefs and motivations surrounding megaprojects.
According to Wood Jr. (2000), the symbolism-intensive organization is an
ideal type of organization, where the symbolic leadership becomes a manage-
rial form and constitutes a phenomenon linked with theatricalization of the
human experience and consolidation of the society as a spectacle.
Since its foundation in 1565, Rio de Janeiro’s city center has suffered four
major public interventions—in 1808, 1904–1908, 1959–1965, and 2012–2016,
respectively. The first intervention started with the relocation of central Rio
de Janeiro’s residents in order to accommodate the Portuguese royal family
and their court—numbering approximately 15,000 people—when they fled
from Napoleon and the French troops’ imminent invasion. As a result, in 1808
the prince-regent transferred the capital of the Kingdom of Portugal from
Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro (Azevedo, 2010).
Project Management Journal, Vol. 48, No. 6, 17–28 A century later, from 1904 to 1908, former mayor Pereira Passos sponsored
© 2017 by the Project Management Institute a megaproject, which would mark the transformation of a dark, violent, and
Published online at www.pmi.org/PMJ unhealthy Rio de Janeiro. The intervention, planned to create a “Parisian

December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal  17


Symbolic Megaprojects: Historical Evidence of a Forgotten Dimension
PAPERS

air” to the tropical capital, included the In summary, for the past 200 years, high-budget project, delivers a substantial
demolition of slums and the construc- central Rio de Janeiro has been radi- piece of physical infrastructure; the client
tion of large avenues and boulevards— cally changed four times—three of them is the government and, typically, there is
an urban renovation that had previously as the results of megaprojects. In fact, a private main contractor who sometimes
occurred in European cities, including not only did these megaprojects help retains a stake in ownership after the proj-
Paris, France; Vienna, Austria; Florence, transform some of the city’s observable ect has been completed.
Italy; and Berlin, Germany. The project’s traits, but they also carried a number of In this regard, Flyvbjerg (2014) des­
outcome also encompassed a mass symbolic meanings, best described by cribes the four sublimes that drive mega-
vaccination of the population against Flyvbjerg’s (2014) aforementioned four project development, starting with the
smallpox (Del Brenna, 1985). sublimes that drive megaproject devel- technological sublime, which refers to
In 1960, the same region was cho- opment. Comparing the three megaproj- the state that engineers and technolo-
sen again, when the Brazilian federal ects described in this article—Central gists arrive at in pushing what is possi-
government moved the country’s capi- Avenue, Flamengo Embankment, and ble in first-of-anything types of projects,
tal from Rio de Janeiro to Brasília. The Porto Maravilha—will likely reveal con- using high-technology solutions, some
intervention, which was also planned tinuities and similarities in the ways they of which are not sufficiently matured or
to celebrate the city’s 400th anniver- are conceived, implemented, and deliv- developed in the beginning of the proj-
sary in 1965, involved a huge embank- ered. For instance, the same tension ect (Shenhar, 2001). The political sub-
ment of Guanabara Bay, where a new between economic and aesthetic sub- lime drives the decision-making process
public park would be built, as well as limes observed in the 1960s is still pres- of megaproject execution, because poli-
an elevated highway, also known as ent today, since Brazil still lacks making ticians are attracted to the visionary
Perimetral, which would shadow about huge investments in infrastructure approach and visibility that are cre-
five kilometers (approximately 3 miles) (e.g., transportation and public services). ated, which materializes symbols cher-
of Rio de Janeiro’s harbor extension. In effect, the lighting solution in the ished by society and explains what the
Recently, after hosting a number Flamengo Embankment project was as results will cause with the public and
of international events, including the controversial as the recent demolition of the media. The economic sublime refers
United Nations Conference on Environ- an expensive elevated highway just for to the frenzy of economic activities
ment and Development, in 1992; the aesthetic purposes, driven by the Olym- that ensue from every new megapro-
2007 Pan American Games; and the 2014 pics. Furthermore, a thorough examina- ject, including contractors, workers in
World Cup (the latter along with other tion might disclose other similarities in construction and transportation, trade
Brazilian cities), Rio de Janeiro’s mayor important project management–related unions, consultants, bankers, investors,
started a new megaproject completed in issues, for example, the ways they are landowners, and lawyers, among other
2016, just in time for the Olympic Games. conceived, implemented, and delivered. stakeholders. Finally, the aesthetic sub-
Called Porto Maravilha (in English, Additionally, in this study we attempt lime, which may go hand in hand with
“Wonder Port”), the project comprised an to shed light on how symbols are con- the political sublime, may be described
area of approximately five million square structed, communicated, translated, as the breakthrough in architecture and
meters. Perimetral, the elevated high- and captured by symbolic megaproject design represented by the project out-
way, was demolished and approximately stakeholders. come, which is also iconic, beautiful,
eight kilometers of underground tunnels and breathtaking, such as the projects
were built. The project also included the Stumbling Upon Symbols described in this article.
renovation of more than 120 kilome- in Megaprojects Projects may be understood as exam-
ters of the drinking water network, the Megaprojects—large-scale, complex, trans­ ples of temporary organizations (Morris,
construction of 84 kilometers of a sew- formational ventures that not only take 2013), although not all temporary orga-
erage network, 37 kilometers of a drain- many years to develop but also impact mil- nizations are projects. Projects emerge
age network, and 26 kilometers of a gas lions of people—“are increasingly used as in all industry sectors for different pur-
network. Furthermore, Porto Maravilha the preferred delivery model for goods and poses and for the satisfaction of vari-
promised new urban standards in an services across a range of businesses and ous needs (Morgan, 2006) and therefore
area of approximately 70 kilometers, sectors.” (Flyvbjerg, 2014, p. 6) Warrack allow researchers to study them from an
encompassing 650,000 square meters of (1993) emphasizes the economic, social, organizational theory perspective.
sidewalks, 17 kilometers of bike paths, and symbolic roles of megaprojects in The studies on organizational sym-
and 28 kilometers of technologically modern society, which may explain why bolism started to gain relevance after the
advanced light rail lines (Companhia they are so attractive to decision mak- seminal work of Pondy, Frost, Morgan,
de Desenvolvimento Urbano do Rio de ers. Sanderson (2012) mentions the main and Dandridge (1983), who viewed orga-
Janeiro [CDURP], 2015). characteristics of a megaproject: it is a nizations as collections of individuals

18  December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal


engaged in metaphorical transforma- Based upon the notion of symbolism- the project. This participation discourse,
tions of reality. Morgan’s (2006) work intensive organizations, we propose the however, usually does not translate into
is filled with organizational symbolism description of the symbolism-intensive reality during project execution, since
metaphors. His framework allows for a project: it is a high-budget megapro- these parties propose very few changes.
better understanding of different orga- ject that deeply impacts its surround- Symbols have meanings beyond their
nizational views. Alvesson (1991) intro- ings, is highly controversial, has a limited inherent essence (Dandridge, Mitroff,
duces the discussion of organizational schedule, and proposes a radical change. & Joyce, 1980), thus symbolic actions
symbolism as a research field as well as Symbolism-intensive projects create an are representational and demand inter-
its relation to an ideology of organiza- aura of redemption, in the sense that pretation (Hambrik & Lovelace, 2017).
tions. Stratti (1998, p. 1379) states that it creates a missionary culture that res- Moreover, symbolic actions—and sym­
the symbolic approach “. . . emerges as onates in managerial practices. Such bolic projects for that matter—are usu-
a component of the vast organizational megaprojects make intensive use of ritu- ally depicted in beneficial terms (Gioia,
literature that deals with symbolism and als, for example, to celebrate the project Thomas, Clark, & Chittipeddi, 1994). Pol-
culture in organization.” Hence, sym- itself as well as its outcome for stakehold- iticians and project managers alike are
bolism can be either viewed as part ers and society as a whole. Symbolism is thrilled about the potential of symbolic
of the organizational culture or linked particularly intensive during ceremonies, projects to put them in the limelight.
to institutional theory, since organiza- such as contract signings, the achieve- Nonetheless, some symbolic projects fall
tional politics can be viewed as a legiti- ment of certain milestones, collective short of their expected outcomes and
mate symbol (Stratti, 1998); however, press interviews, and press releases, may even be counterproductive. In this
the research on symbolism as a manage- among others. case, they may be greeted with derision
rial action is still scarce. Fiss and Zajac Symbolism-intensive projects  also by society.
(2006) developed a symbolic manage- attempt to reorganize the past as a defin- These symbolic projects can only be
ment perspective on strategic change itive solution, after which all problems fully understood from historical, politi-
to predict and test the antecedents and from the past suddenly disappear. The cal, and sociological perspectives. The
consequences of how firms frame stra- account of successful similar enter- key questions are: What was at stake?
tegic change. prises is extensively used, both as risk And why were these projects so impor-
The symbolism-intensive organiza- mitigation and an incentive against the tant to governments? In order to answer
tion (Wood Jr., 2000) is defined as a expected obstacles during project exe- these questions, we must recall that sym-
new ideal type in organization studies. cution. Furthermore, these projects are bols engage and direct people’s cogni-
According to Wood Jr. (2000), organiza­ usually managed by someone who acts tions (Gioia & Chittipeddi, 1991); they
tions become magical kingdoms, where as a super project manager, a hero who are clearly perceptible attention-getters
the symbolic space is filled with symbol is supposed to overcome enormous bar- (Werner & Cornelissen, 2014); they are
manipulation and rhetoric. Symbolism- riers. Furthermore, the project manager devices for conveying the importance and
intensive organizations are characterized and his or her team use a number of pos- urgency of needed change (Snell, 2002);
by symbolic leadership as a predominant itive assumptions to reduce the project’s and finally, symbols provide economic,
managerial style, where leaders and fol- difficulties and risks. Intensive symbol- image-laden reinforcement for associated
lowers apply impression management ism is also based upon the populariza- strategic themes (Maitlis & Lawrence,
techniques. By definition, impression tion of project management and pop 2007); in other words, they signal a stra-
management is a conscious or subcon- management clichés and terms (e.g., tegic change (Gioia & Chittipeddi, 1991).
scious process in which people attempt stakeholders, deliverables, milestones, This study also draws on Üsdiken and
to influence the perceptions of other project manager, megaproject, organi- Kieser’s (2004) integrationist app­roach,
people about a person, object, or event. zational culture, baseline, and project which “calls for a focus on the inter­sec­tion
They do so by regulating and controlling legacy). The pop management (a term and the conjoining of historical analysis
information in social interaction. coined by Wood Jr., 2000) literature com- and the study of particular organizational
Moreover, the managerial innova- prises books and “fast consumption” forms and processes” (Usdiken & Kieser,
tion is treated as a dramaturgical event, magazines, produced by the business 2004, p. 322). Therefore, adopting the
and symbolic analysts are prevalent media. Business media is part of the integrationist approach means recogniz-
within the workforce. The emergence of management industry, along with con- ing that past projects act in the present
symbolism-intensive organizations can sulting firms, business gurus, and busi- and are useful for identifying and under-
be associated with the theatricalization ness schools. Moreover, a discourse standing current practices and behaviors.
of the contemporary human experience encouraging stakeholder participation Recognizing that current megaprojects
and consolidation of the society as a in the project is constructed, including have been influenced by older projects,
spectacle. those stakeholders who do not support we resort to historical analysis not as

December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal  19


Symbolic Megaprojects: Historical Evidence of a Forgotten Dimension
PAPERS

a sort of existing organizational theory These dualisms underpin their ex­­ lection comprised not only the projects’
substitute. Rather, we attempt to bet- plication of four alternative research official archival sources but also previous
ter understand current megaprojects by strategies for organizational history, academic research as well as newspaper
combining both historical and organiza- namely: corporate history, analytically and television accounts. In fact, we agree
tional theory approaches. structured history, serial history, and that documentary sources provide “an
According to Hofstede (2001), orga- ethnographic history. This article uses excellent means to test the accuracy of
nizational symbols include words, ges- the analytically structured history as different images and perceptions of the
tures, pictures, and objects and are a research strategy to discuss histori- organization and to compare espoused
typically embedded in complex mean- cal subjects comprising many complex and actual values.” (Dellheim, 1986,
ings, identified by those who share the elements. Analytically structured his- p. 20)
same culture. Megaprojects are usually tory uses analytic constructs—in this
perceived as unchangeable with regard study, project, outcome, and benefit—to Central Avenue: Making the
to both measurable and more abstract search archival sources, enabling the Transition from Rural to
benefits, in accordance with the iron construction of a narrative of structures Urban Society
law of megaprojects (Flyvbjerg, 2014), and events that may not have been per- In 1808, fearing the imminent invasion
in other words, cost overruns, benefit ceived as such by historical actors (Row- of Lisbon by Napoleon’s troops, the
shortfalls, and other major concerns. linson, Hassard, & Decker, 2014). Also, Portuguese court was transferred to Rio
Nonetheless, in line with Kieser (1994, we resorted to content analysis (Krip- de Janeiro, making the colonial city the
p. 61), by reconstructing their develop- pendorf, 2012) of the data collected, not heart of the Portuguese empire, whose
ment over time, we attempt to discover only from historical books and papers, territoriality included colonies in Africa
which features are actually the results or but also from newspaper accounts and and Asia. Without any urbanization proj-
outcomes of older projects, which prob- project files. ect, the city saw its population double
ably have been conducted differently. In It should be noted that, “although in a year—with no proper structure and
this case, the past itself becomes a vari- analytically structured history retains virtually no local production or skilled
able (Üsdiken & Kieser, 2004). narrative as the main form of explana- labor—since, for nearly 240 years, it had
Furthermore, by combining an his- tion, it is driven by concepts, events, and only been a colonial city based on natural
torical analysis with a novel organiza- causation. [. . .] Analytically structured resources extraction and the distribution
tional theory perspective, we are able to history may draw on secondary sources of slaves coming from Africa (Azevedo,
critically assess “ideas that are currently and narrative texts, but that is not the 2010; Benchimol, 1990). Although the
promulgated” (Usdiken & Kieser, 2004, same as a reworking or an analysis of presence of the royal family in the city
p. 323), thus adding to prior project the narratives already contained within was supposed to be temporary, the King
management research. those sources” (Rowlinson, Hassard, & of Portugal and his entourage remained
Decker, 2014, p. 264). in Rio de Janeiro for almost 14 years.
Methodological Procedures Rojas (2010, p. 1268) discusses three In 1822, Brazil declared its inde-
Rowlinson, Hassard, and Decker (2014) disadvantages of consulting organiza- pendence and established a monarchy,
discussed three epistemological dual- tional archives compared with collecting yet it was still an agrarian economy
isms derived from historical theory data in real time, for example, in inter- heavily dependent on slave labor. The
to explain the relationship between views: (1) “organizations vary in what is new capital of the empire remained
history and organizational theory. The saved and when it is saved”; (2) “archives disorderly and dirty, avoided by many
first dualism concerns explanation: tend to be rich in documents from lead- foreign ships fearing chronic diseases.
While historians focus on narrative ers, but they have fewer materials about Yellow fever epidemics were
construction, organizational theorists other actors”; and (3) “actors can selec- recurrent—notably in 1870, 1873, and
subordinate narrative to analysis. The tively record what transpires in an orga- 1876—and the population crowded
second dualism, or dualism of evidence, nization. Meeting minutes, for example, around the city center (Benchimol,
regards the use of verifiable documen- may address only major points and omit 1990). At the time, European immigra-
tary sources by historians, whereas important contextualizing discussions.” tion had increased and foreign residents
organizational theorists prefer con- The author also argues that such disad- were estimated to be about one-third of
structed data. In the third and final vantages should be offset by the addi- the city’s population. This population
dualism, in other words, dualism of tion of “newspaper accounts, interviews, lived mostly in slums or multi-room
temporality, historians construct their memoirs, and other materials.” houses, dark and dirty places lacking
own periodization, whereas organiza- The same disadvantages regarding minimum sanitary conditions. Many of
tional theorists treat time as constant organizational archives apply to proj- these houses were old colonial homes,
for chronology. ects’ archival sources; hence, data col- whose descendants had moved to new

20  December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal


neighborhoods created along the water- tingent of Africans, former slaves who civilizes itself” was the rallying motto at
front toward the south side of the city. had left their farms in the countryside. the time (Vieira, 2015). Moreover, the
Then began, according to Benchimol Furthermore, European migratory waves project regulated urban life, and the
(1990), the controversy surrounding the followed, not only from Portugal, but authorities acted firmly against old hab-
feasibility and advisability of removing also from Spain, Italy, Switzerland, and its and archaic traditions. For example,
a great proletarian mass from the center Germany. Finally, the imperial govern- the everyday sales of milk and small
to the poorer part of the city, the so- ment outsourced infrastructure services: animals earned by small producers, who
called ‘north side.’ sanitation was delivered to a British simply drove their cows in procession
In late nineteenth-century Rio de company in 1862; an American organi- every morning toward the old city cen-
Janeiro, the successful transformation zation was in charge of installing the first ter, was one of the first practices to be
of European cities was discussed and telephone in 1881; a Belgium company prohibited in downtown Rio de Janeiro,
exemplified as a positive project out- provided public gas lighting and gas despite the resistance of sellers and the
come. In 1875, the Brazilian Emperor delivery in 1886; and the Canadians were population in general.
opened an exhibition in Rio called responsible for electricity at the turn of The project manager was former
“Public Improvements,” following a set century. The sole exception was water mayor Pereira Passos, himself a civil
of urban planning and infrastructure supply, which remained state-owned, engineer who had previously worked
ideas, concepts, and projects devel- after having been the subject of a huge on some important railroad projects
oped about one year earlier. Benchimol expansion project completed in 1880 throughout Brazil for decades. Mr. Passos
(1990) and Rocha (1995) describe (Benchimol, 1990). had also lived in Paris, France and
and analyze the ideas and plans pro- In this scenario, the renovation of Zurich, Switzerland, where he observed
posed by the Engineering Club and the city center, including its harbor some railroad construction projects and
the City Improvements Committee extension, constituted the first mega- furthered his knowledge on the sub-
from 1873 to 1902, which included project to be carried out in Brazil, whose ject. When the Central Avenue project
widening of streets, sanitation, water main symbol was the opening of Central started, he was 67 years old and would
distribution, and energy conces- Avenue, the postcard image that would live for 11 more years until his death
sions. These plans were influenced add Rio de Janeiro to the list of civilized in 1914. At that age, he was closer to
by the Medical Commission, estab- and modern cities. The republic was retirement than the other project man-
lished by the federal government as a proclaimed in 1889 and 13 years later, agers mentioned herein; nonetheless,
response to the yellow fever devasta- in 1902, the president submitted a pro- he envisioned a civilization far beyond
tion in 1876, which accounted for 3,500 posal to the Parliament that allowed a that which a single urbanistic project
deaths (Benchimol, 1990). As a result, loan of 8.5 million British pounds (circa could produce. He advocated in favor of
the Imperial Medical Academy encour- US$41 million, which today is equiv- education and his ideas were in line with
aged a new mindset in the incipient alent to approximately US$1 billion) the dominant medical policy at the time,
Brazilian medical community. The owed to British bankers, an amount that which was based on mass vaccination
Academy introduced the need for space represented almost 50% of the 1903 fed- and radically changing the poorer popu-
ordering and planning, based on social eral budget (Rocha, 1995). lation’s sanitation habits (Del Brenna,
medicine’s new practices and ideas. It During the project’s first year, intense 1985). Passos’ views were similar to those
was the first disease prevention state effort was made to amend the legisla- of Henry Ford’s Ford Motor Company
policy based on spatial organization tion and therefore reduce the costs of employees, which occurred years later
architecture, with a strong emphasis land expropriations. The project itself in the United States, during the growth
on public and private space clean- was divided into three areas, each with and heyday of mass production in his
ing. This new generation of doctors its own staff and equipment, which automotive business (Snow, 2013).
would develop these ideas, changing would converge in the end. In 1906, the
the population’s habits and introduc- demolition of 1,681 houses was con- Flamengo Embankment:
ing mandatory vaccines at the turn of cluded, directly affecting 20,000 people Rio Remains the Synthesis
the century, which was met with strong (Rocha, 1995). Completed on time, the of Brazil
objection from the general public. project fully remodeled the city center; The genesis of this project dates back to
The execution of the Central Avenue renovated and organized the city’s port; 1952, when Santo Antonio Hill was torn
project, started in 1903, was the result and led to the construction of landmark down to open an avenue in downtown
of a combination of factors, which acted buildings, such as the Municipal Theater, Rio de Janeiro. The resulting debris was
as project facilitators. In addition to the the National Museum of Fine Arts, then deposited in an area adjacent to
aforementioned elements, slavery abo- the National Library, and the Monroe what is now the Flamengo Embank-
lition brought to the city a huge con- Palace, home of the Federal Senate. “Rio ment. This first part of the embankment

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Symbolic Megaprojects: Historical Evidence of a Forgotten Dimension
PAPERS

would last until 1958 and did not resem- War II U.S. cities. Some decades later, overseeing educational activities within
ble any park that would later be built. some of these American cities started the park (Instituto Lotta, 2016).
In fact, the project was designed so as to a movement to substitute viaducts with In addition to innovation in gath-
build high-speed lanes to connect the tunnels, as illustrated by Boston’s Big ering a number of activities in a uni­
city’s downtown to its southern neigh- Dig project (Mohl, 2012; Tajima, 2003). que scenario, the project resorted to
borhoods (Jornal O Globo, 2013). In addition, the idea of building a a highly advanced lighting solution,
Nonetheless, in 1956, former Bra- tropical park (much like Central Park in which would allow for visitors attend-
zilian president Juscelino Kubitchek New York City) with 1.2 million square ing nighttime park events to fully ap­­
decided to move the country’s capi- meters, not only encompassing recre- preciate the beautiful setting. The
tal from Rio de Janeiro to Brasília, a ational areas and over 11,000 trees of solution was controversial and deemed
city specifically designed for this pur- nearly 200 different species, but also an unnecessary luxury, even by mem-
pose. As a result, in 1960, Rio de Janeiro presenting modern architectonic fea- bers of the work group, since the
became a city–state, the sole represen- tures, was particularly appealing to the 45-meter (approximately 147 feet) high
tative of the state of Guanabara, a sta- governor. The project created the sym- light poles with six 1,000-watt mercury
tus that would last until 1975. Carlos bol of modernity Lacerda wanted to lamps, weighing 17 tons each, required
Lacerda, launching his campaign to run convey (Jornal O Globo, 2013; Instituto technology unavailable in Brazil at the
for the state’s first governor, stated: “We Lotta, 2016). time (Instituto Lotta, 2016).
are not a decaying city, but a released In 1961, after agreeing to a transfor- The project was still in progress,
city [. . .] a region without regional- mation of the original parkway project, despite the park’s official opening in
ism. They thought that by abandon- Governor Lacerda created a work group October 1965. In fact, Lotta proposed the
ing us they would move civilization by decree, which was to be presided creation of a public organization, which
west, but here is where they left it. by his friend Lotta Macedo Soares, to would not only be responsible for pro-
Because we are the synthesis of Brazil, manage the project. The work group’s moting and overseeing educational
because we are Brazil’s door to the responsibilities were: (1) guiding and activities within the park, but also for
world, and we are the very image the projecting all architectonic, landscap- integrating the project and making
world makes of us” (Motta, 1997, p. 168). ing, and creative work to be execu­ sure it would eventually be completed
Rio de Janeiro’s significant loss of status ted by the department of urbanization (Instituto Lotta, 2016).
had a major impact on the city’s politi- and sanitation on the embankment; In 1965, Lacerda ran again for gov-
cians as well as its people (Motta, 2000). (2) over­s eeing the urbanization and ernor and lost, which made the creation
Following his election, Lacerda pre- landscaped composition on the water- of the organization all the more impor-
sented his plan for the next five years, front; and (3) vali­dating any work of art tant for the continuation of the project.
which included expanding the edu- acquisition and location. Moreover, the Despite objection from the state parlia-
cational system, improving the water work group could request, if necessary, ment, Lacerda founded the organiza-
supply network, and organizing Rio Guanabara State’s public employees or tion, Flamengo Park Foundation, which
de Janeiro’s urban space. The newly hire specialized services through for- would be dissolved the following year
formed city–state had peculiar financial mal recommendation to the depart- by the new governor, Negrão de Lima.
support: both state and city taxation, ment of urbanization and sanitation Lotta would also be replaced as the
federal debts with the state of Gua- (Instituto Lotta, 2016). project manager (Motta, 2000; Instituto
nabara, and external loans. Lacerda’s Lotta, who had a major influence Lotta, 2016).
anticommunist policy contributed to on the governor, envisioned a park in In 1979, Marcos Tamoyo, Rio de
his gaining access to loans granted an easily accessible place, to be visited Janeiro’s mayor at the time, decided
by international agencies—to a great by people from different parts of the the project was successfully completed
extent controlled by the United States— city for outdoor recreational activities. with the opening of a restaurant and
after the communist revolution in Cuba The project encompassed sports courts, a marina (Jornal O Globo, 1979). The
in 1959. The Flamengo Park was, in playgrounds, aeromodelling and naval original purpose of the marina, however,
fact, built in combination with an ele- ship modeling areas, aquariums, arbo- had been changed from giving the
vated highway called Perimetral, which reta, public restrooms (the first in Rio park’s visitors another transportation
would be integrated with the embank- de Janeiro), as well as a public marina option into a simple boathouse. In other
ment in order to connect the southern, for those who wished to visit the park words, although integrated into the
central, and northern neighborhoods. by sea. Furthermore, the project com- same landscape, the park as a whole
Perimetral’s construction was based prised an educational purpose, which and the marina no longer shared the
on inner-city elevated expressways, a would be fulfilled by a specific orga- originally intended benefits (Jornal O
common trend in several post-World nization in charge of promoting and Globo, 2013).

22  December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal


Furthermore, the concept of con- public and private stakeholders. For to cover urban requalification expenses
tinuing education within the park was project implementation and public within the established area of special
never achieved, which may be credited service  operations and maintenance urbanistic interest. To stimulate hous-
to the short-lived Flamengo Park Foun- within the established area of special ing construction in the port region,
dation (Instituto Lotta, 2016). On the urbanistic interest, a concession was one CEPAC permits the construction of
other hand, the park was crossed by two granted to another new company, called more square meters in residential than
high-speed six-lane highways, which Porto Novo. CDURP was also responsible in commercial enterprises (Companhia
led to the Perimetral elevated express- for project conception and financing. de Desenvolvimento Urbano do Rio de
way, thus connecting the northern and Although publicized as a single mega- Janeiro [CDURP], 2016).
southern parts of the city (Jornal O project, technically, Porto Maravilha was According to CDURP (2016), the port
Globo, 2015). actually a program, composed of a num- region’s residents are the stakeholders
ber of large projects. Its scope included most directly affected by the Porto Mara-
Porto Maravilha: Revitalizing (1) demolishing Perimetral; (2) building vilha project. For example, the renova-
the Ultimate National Symbol three underground tunnels to be used tion of drainage networks is expected
At the beginning of the twenty-first cen- as expressways; (3) building an entirely to put an end to historical floods in
tury, Rio de Janeiro’s harbor extension new light rail network connecting the a number of streets. During its execu-
was at the pinnacle of its decadence. city center, including the city’s largest tion, in the period spanning from 2013
With a huge abandoned area and closed inter-state bus terminal offering trans- to 2016, the project was responsible for
warehouses, the port of Rio de Janeiro portation to Santos Dumont domestic the greatest traffic jams in the history of
presented 70% of idle capacity. The re­­ airport, which relied on a new catenary- the city because of Perimetral’s demoli-
gion’s main avenue, opened in 1907 less power system; (4) building a scenic tion. Also, CEPAC certificates did not sell
as part of the projects undertaken by promenade; (5) rebuilding the region’s as planned, thus leading the Brazilian
Passos, had become a simple car route, infrastructure (e.g., sanitation and water government to buying them all. In fact,
entirely shadowed by Perimetral, the supply); (6) building the Museum of the Brazilian government expected a
elevated highway built in Lacerda’s gov- Tomorrow on the pier; and (7) building high demand after the conclusion of
ernment. Furthermore, most buildings, the Rio Museum of Art by retrofitting the project. Moreover, during execution,
which used to be homes to grain silos two old unused buildings (Companhia the project was severely criticized by
and flour companies, were vacant and de Desenvolvimento Urbano do Rio de the press, in light of its huge impact on
so were large state-owned areas. To Janeiro [CDURP], 2015). the region, elevated costs, tight sched-
make matters worse, there had been no Porto Maravilha was financed ule, and potential risks.
residential real estate launch in the last through an innovative model for the
100 years, thus contributing to a sig- region’s urban requalification, based on A Megaproject Comparison
nificant population decline. Barcelona’s additional construction potential bonds The cases described could be classified
revitalization of the port area, motivated (these are government-issued bonds, as megaprojects, according to Flyvbjerg
by the 1992 Olympic Games (Ferreira, which allow its owners—real estate (2014), Warrack (1993), and Sanderson
2010), is frequently mentioned in works companies—to build beyond legislation (2012). The three projects were strongly
by other authors. limits). Municipality legislation defines motivated by a decolonizing view of
Just like the Central Avenue project, every type, size, and height of real estate; Brazil and Rio de Janeiro. Through the
discussions on the revitalization of the in other words, it determines what is materialization of symbols cherished by
region and the search for resources for called construction potential by area. the city’s society (e.g., its central role in
its fulfillment took several years. In addi- In order to recover degraded regions, Brazil, modernity, urbanity, and civility),
tion to Rio de Janeiro’s mayor’s high federal legislation allows the creation the projects intended to provide Rio de
political aspirations, the approval of Rio of urban consortium operations in Janeiro with hallmarks of a great city,
de Janeiro as a 2014 FIFA World Cup which the municipality establishes spe- which would allow it to be among such
host city and as the 2016 Olympics host cific rules for new buildings. In this major cities as Paris, Vienna, Florence,
city played a pivotal role in the deci- case, larger properties may be built in Berlin, Barcelona, Boston, and New York.
sion of finally revitalizing the ultimate exchange for financial compensation, Furthermore, the envisioned outcomes
national symbol. Thus, in 2009, the Porto in other words, the purchase of Certifi- would transcend merely observable
Maravilha project started with the foun- cates of Additional Construction Poten- traits. In fact, when it comes to sym-
dation of CDURP (Portuguese acronym tial (CEPACS, the Portuguese acronym). bolic projects, outcome analysis is not
for Port of Rio de Janeiro Urban Devel- Each certificate is equivalent to an area only observable but eminently cul-
opment Company), a public–private to be built measured in square meters; tural. Although the intended outcome
partnership in charge of coordinating the resources must be used exclusively was not totally achieved in the cases

December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal  23


Symbolic Megaprojects: Historical Evidence of a Forgotten Dimension
PAPERS

Sublimes Central Avenue Flamengo Embankment Porto Maravilha


Political •  First urban project in Brazil •  First project after the capital moved to •  Based on similar interventions in
•  Based on similar projects in major Brasília other cities with degraded port areas,
European cities •  High-visibility project e.g., Barcelona
•  Shows the maturity of the new •  Materialization of symbols cherished by Rio •  High-visibility project with potential of
Brazilian republic government de Janeiro’s society, e.g., the city’s central being internationally recognized due
•  High-visibility project of becoming role, modernity, and civility to 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic
a South American postcard Games
Aesthetic •  European-oriented eclectic •  Modern architectonic, landscaping features, •  Substitution of elevated highway with
architectonic style with artistic works in several locations tunnels
•  Wide and clean streets •  Seamless integration into the city’s natural •  Scenic promenade
•  Landmark buildings beauty
Economic •  The cost represented 50% of •  Budget derived from federal compensation •  Extensive use of public–private solution
Brazil’s 1903 budget for moving the capital to Brasília •  Unusual project financing, based on
•  Foreign debt owed to the United •  Foreign debt owed to the United States bonds related to construction in the
Kingdom area
Technological •  Basic urban conditions, including •  First active recreational park in Brazil •  Catenary-less tramway
electricity, telephone, gas, water •  First public restrooms •  N
 ew high-technology museums,
and sewerage systems •  High-tech lighting solution, with the highest e.g., Museum of Tomorrow
•  Streets and squares built light poles in the country until then
adequately for public
transportation
Table 1: A megaproject comparison.

studied, their symbolic, identitary, good news abounded—skyrocketing oil wide boulevards were Central Avenue’s
and transformational roles lead one to prices to go along with pre-salt reservoir benchmarks, whereas North American
believe that they were indeed successful. discoveries and Brazil’s election to host cities inspired the construction of Perim-
Table 1 summarizes the main aspects the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 etral. Porto Maravilha was influenced
of each project, according to the four Olympic Games. Despite the political by megaprojects from both Barcelona
aspects proposed by Flyvbjerg (2014): similarities, the project managers acted and Boston. The projects attempted to
the political, aesthetical, economic, and differently. Pereira Passos, who was Rio convey symbols of development and
technological sublimes. de Janeiro’s mayor, was both the proj- civilization that would put Rio de Janeiro
As far as the political sublime is con- ect sponsor and manager; moreover, he among the best modern places to live.
cerned, substantive similarities stand did not have the same political aspira- Despite the influence of such cities over
out. Central Avenue was a symbol of a tions as his successors, illustrated by the projects’ aesthetic traits, the evolv-
nascent urban society and represented the fact that he is currently referred ing environment clearly had an effect
the gentrification of the recently insti- to as a mayor–engineer, more so than on them.
tuted Brazilian Republic Government. as a politician (Del Brenna, 1985). On With regard to the technological sub-
Half a century later, the Flamengo the other hand, Carlos Lacerda dur- lime, a similar change was noticed, rang-
Embankment project and the con- ing the 1960s and Eduardo Paes dur- ing from elementary urban conditions
struction of Perimetral were parts of ing the Porto Maravilha project both to more aesthetically than technologi-
the federal government’s response to clearly linked their political careers with cally advanced features, and to a more
popular and political reactions against the projects’ outcomes. The political state-of-the-art and technology-driven
the construction of the new Brazilian symbolism of the three megaprojects outcome, exemplified by a catenary-less
capital, Brasília, and its most significant encompassed the strategic decision to tramway integrating other pivotal means
consequence: the loss of the former change the essence of downtown Rio of transport.
capital’s real and symbolic power. The de Janeiro. Finally, the most significant change
Brasília project was another megapro- The aesthetic sublime is also present pertains to the economic sublime.
ject of the time—the city was erected in in the symbolic nature of these cases, Both Central Avenue and the Flamengo
four years. Finally, the Porto Maravilha due to the evident influence of major cit- Embankment were heavily depen-
project started during the most favor- ies from more developed countries over dent on public funds, whereas Porto
able time of Lula’s presidency, when the projects’ aesthetic features. Paris’ Maravilha differs in the way it was

24  December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal


conceived, developed, and delivered, Second, it may be described as a also be perceived as a hero, not only
as demonstrated by: (1) CDURP, a missionary project in the sense that because of his or her idea, but also in
public–private partnership responsible each stakeholder is expected to accom- view of how the project was outstand-
for mediating public and private stake- plish specific “missions” so as to earn ingly executed, despite all the conflicts
holders’ interests as well as for project the project’s benefits. Volunteer work is and pressures expected in a megapro-
conception and financing; (2) unusual a paramount example. For instance, the ject. Adapting Werner and Cornelissen’s
project financing based on tradeable 2016 Olympic Games organizing com- (2014) findings on institutional change,
bonds related to construction in the mittee planned to recruit 70,000 volun- the project manager consciously plans
area, thus alleviating the city’s budget; teers for the event held in Rio de Janeiro. and executes verbal associations with
and (3) Porto Novo, a concession owner Other stakeholders were also compelled other ideas and cultural values, which
in charge of public service operations to participate, albeit indirectly, in the suggest how solutions in a particular
and maintenance within the established project, as the majority of Rio de Janeiro’s institutional field can be reconsidered
area of special urbanistic interest. Addi- population were severely affected by the and rethought. In other words, the sym-
tionally, the three cases were paid for demolition of Perimetral and its conse- bolism-intensive megaproject manager
with federal funds. The Central Avenue quences to the city’s traffic pattern for is able to establish connections with
initial budget was half the total 1904 more than three years. It could be said, other successful projects and translate
national budget; the second project was therefore, that these stakeholders were it into his or her own reality.
part of the federal compensation for invited to share their time—and occa- Fifth, and finally, a symbolism-
leaving the city; and the third project sionally their money—for the project to intensive project may be described as
was as a consequence of the Olympic become a reality. The symbolic issue is an illusory project, because its results
Games and political alignment. very strong in this case, because exter- and oft-publicized legacy, will fall short
nal stakeholders are invited to take part of what was promised. As transformative
Discussion as active promoters and project fans, and influential as they may be, projects
In addition to the four sublimes dis- so part of the project results could be alone do not improve social systems,
cussed in the previous section, we pro- responsibilities of the population and change cultural values and habits, and
pose a new construct so as to better external stakeholders. enhance educational standards to the
understand symbolic megaprojects: the The third dimension of the symbolism- extent they are believed. In short, sym-
symbolism-intensive project. intensive project refers to one of the proj- bolism-intensive projects create an illu-
A symbolism-intensive project is ect’s main purposes, namely, to annihilate sion according to which it is possible to
characterized by its five most distinctive the past and what it represents: an anni- simply import new conduct codes and
dimensions, described as follows. First, hilator project. The Central Avenue proj- behaviors, just because they are common
it may be depicted as a redemptive proj- ect utterly demolished a 300-year-old city in other environments, such as more
ect, in the sense that it is intended to center, and one century later the Porto developed countries or cities. The gentri-
fulfill a number of long-awaited needs, Maravilha project demolished the Perime- fication process clearly occurred in these
thus deeply transforming the society tral elevated expressway, which connected projects. No other project or effort was
where it is executed. The three cases the city center to the northern part of the carried out to deal with the vast number
discussed herein have been publicized city. Therefore, this dimension comprises of poor residents who had to leave their
as redemption projects, whose legacy symbols that relate to the reconstruction homes; so, these megaprojects were not
would have a dramatic impact on the of spaces. The symbolism presented in the poverty reducers imagined by so
everyday lives of Rio de Janeiro’s resi- this dimension has been used in business many stakeholders. Table 2 summarizes
dents. “Rio Civilizes Itself,” “A Central administration literature and practice for our findings.
Park in Rio,” and “Rio, the Olympic decades, and is based on the idea that the
City” exemplify the vision these projects old managerial style should be replaced Conclusions
encompassed. So, this is the first com- with a more dynamic, professional, client- This research attempted to assess how
mon feature among the three cases. oriented, and less costly approach. symbols are constructed, communi-
Bucci (2016) studied the redemptive The fourth dimension is about cated and translated, and captured in
leadership and wrote about why one the genius of people who distinctively megaprojects. To allow for new proj-
should study redemption in manage- sponsor or manage the project. For ect management–related insights, we
ment. The redemption project is the instance, such a heroic project is illus- resorted to a combination of historical
one that targets reconciliation with the trated by the Olympic Games, since analyses of three symbolic megaprojects
future, the one that will offer a second former President Lula was responsible from Rio de Janeiro and an organizational
or last chance to a complex or unattain- for the idea of bringing the Games to theory approach based on the notion of
able desire. Brazil in 2009. The project manager may symbolism-intensive organizations.

December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal  25


Symbolic Megaprojects: Historical Evidence of a Forgotten Dimension
PAPERS

Dimension Central Avenue Flamengo Embankment Porto Maravilha


Redemptive In the beginning of the 20th century, it Again, the city needs to be aligned with The port area and the city are supposed to
intends to insert the city into the civilized the more developed countries, where rise as if from the ashes, as exemplified
world expressways and viaducts had solved traffic by the case of Barcelona. A huge, decrepit
issues caused by population increase and the part of the city is to be freed from an
automobile industry anachronistic viaduct
Missionary Not only were the residents obliged to The project is a big effort to keep the now Everybody needed to give their share
move from the city center, they were also former capital of Brazil as one of the First of sacrifice in order to be ready for the
urged to change their health and hygiene World major cities Olympic Games, as illustrated by long traffic
habits immediately jams caused by Perimetral’s demolition
Annihilator An enormous part of the city center was A big part of the downtown promenade, The demolition of Perimetral reinforced
almost entirely demolished in one year. renovated 50 years before, became the necessity of the project, since it
The population was forced to find new shadowed by the Perimetral viaduct. Also, created a nightmare in the city’s urban
homes, far from the city center the architectonic styles of the buildings were traffic. A high cost viaduct built only
considered anachronistic, most of which 50 years earlier was entirely demolished.
have been demolished since the 1940s
Heroic Pereira Passos, an elderly man near Lacerda, the first state governor and the Former president Lula and mayor Eduardo
retirement, was assigned the positions of project’s sponsor and primarily Lotta Macedo Paes always presented themselves as the
both city mayor and project manager Soares, the woman who acted as the real “fathers” of the project
project manager
Illusory As a result of building a beautiful new The project created an enormous abandoned Extremely tight schedule, insufficient
boulevard, the population’s habits were area near the port, traffic problems budget, and questionable debt solution
supposed to radically change, and the continued to grow, and years later the for financing the project budget. A strong
people removed from the city center expressway was not sufficient to handle the gentrification process in the former
would buy new houses in the city traffic. decrepit areas
Table 2: A symbolism-intensive megaproject analysis.

Organizations may use projects to about people’s cognition engage- model, we outline a set of issues for
placate external stakeholders (Westphal ment; Werner and Cornelissen’ (2014) further research related to megapro-
& Zajac, 1998) as do governments with conception of attention-getters; the ject management: How far it could be
symbolic projects. We understand that expressed strategic change vision (Gioia applied to other project and environ-
the use of the adjective ‘symbolic’ goes & Chittipeldi, 1991), and the urgency of mental dimensions, such as different
beyond the concepts of words without a needed change, as stated by Maitlis cultures, different project outcomes, spe-
action: thus symbolic projects embody a and Lawrence (2007). cific industry sectors, nongovernmen-
constructive imagery, as well as decep- Given their culturally ingrained  fea- tal megaprojects, and even applying the
tion and guile. Indeed, the adjective tures, the examination of symbolic framework to megaprojects carried out
‘symbolic’ is meant as the materializa- projects must transcend an objective, in different countries.
tion of constructive imagery. Symbolic measurable, and observable outcome. As
projects are representational and, there- previously stated, certain project features
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December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal  27


Symbolic Megaprojects: Historical Evidence of a Forgotten Dimension
PAPERS

Sanderson, J. (2012). Risk, uncertainty naturalismo no Brasil. [A bunch of Manchester Business School – Global MBA. His
and governance in megaprojects: Rascals: Figueiredo Pimentel and the recent research has focused on the organization
A critical discussion of alternative Naturalism in Brazil] Master’s thesis, of project-based firms, historical projects, and
explanations. International Journal of Universidade do Estado do Rio de megaprojects. He has also worked as a project
Project Management, 30(3), 432–443. Janeiro, Instituto de Letras, Rio de manager for the Brazilian Navy Research Institute
Shenhar, A. (2001). One size does not Janeiro, Brazil. (IPqM). He can be contacted at marcos.rego@fgv.br
fits all projects: Exploring classical Warrack, A. (1993). Megaproject
contingency domains. Management decision making: Lessons and strategies. Helio Arthur Reis Irigaray earned his PhD and
Science, 47(3), 394–414. Western Centre for Economic Research MSc degrees in Management from Fundação
Snell, R. (2002). The learning Information Bulletin, 16, 1–15. Getulio Vargas—EAESP, São Paulo, Brazil and
organization, sensegiving and Werner, M., & Cornelissen, J. (2014). Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro,
psychological contracts: A Hong Kong Framing the change: Switching and Brazil, respectively and a BA in Economics from the
case. Organization Studies, 23(4), 549–569. blending frames and their role in University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, Iowa, USA.
instigating institutional change. He is Adjunct Professor at the Brazilian School of
Snow, R. (2013). I invented the modern
Organization Studies, 35(10), 1449–1472. Public and Business Administration (EBAPE)—FGV,
age: The rise of Henry Ford. New York,
Rio de Janeiro and Adjunct Professor at Georgetown
NY: Simon & Schuster. Westphal, J., & Zajac, E. (1998). The
University, Washington, DC, USA. Professor Irigaray
Stratti, A. (1998). Organizational symbolic management of stakeholders:
is Program Director of Alliance Manchester Business
symbolism as a social construction: Corporate governance reforms and
School/FGV-EBAPE Global MBA Program, Editor of
A perspective from the sociology of shareholder reactions. Administrative
Cadernos EBAPE.BR. He can be contacted at helio 
knowledge. Human Relations, 51(11), Science Quarterly, 43(1), 127–153.
.irigaray@fgv.br
1379–1399. Wood Jr., T. (2000). Organizações
Tajima, K. (2003). New estimates de simbolismo intensivo. [Intensive
Renato Lago P. Chaves, earned his Master in
of the demand for urban green symbolism organizations] Revista de
Business Administration from the Brazilian School of
space: Implications for valuing the Administração de Empresas, 40(1), 20–28.
Public and Business Administration (EBAPE)—FGV,
environmental benefits of Boston’s Big
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. His main research interests
Dig Project. Journal of Urban Affairs,
Marcos Lopez Rego, PMP, is an Electronic are in the fields of project management, strategy,
25(5), 641–655.
Engineer, who earned his PhD and MSc degrees and organizational behavior. His managerial
Usdiken, B., & Kieser, A. (2004). An in Management from Pontifical Catholic University experience includes research and development
introduction: History in organization of Rio de Janeiro; he is Assistant Professor of programs and service contracting. He is currently
studies. Business History, 46(3), 321–330. Project Management at the Brazilian School of an Outsourcing Planning Coordinator at Petrobras'
Vieira, R. F. (2015). Uma penca de Public and Business Administration (EBAPE)—FGV, shared services center. He can be contacted at
canalhas: Figueiredo Pimentel e o Rio de Janeiro and visiting Professor at Alliance renatochaves.jazz@gmail.com

28  December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal


PAPERS The Three Secrets of Megaproject
Success: Clear Strategic Vision, Total
Alignment, and Adapting to Complexity
Aaron Shenhar, Rutgers Business School, Newark, New Jersey, USA
Vered Holzmann, Faculty of Management, Tel-Aviv University, Tel-Aviv, Israel

ABSTRACT ■ INTRODUCTION

M
egaprojects have been performed by humanity since the early
Past studies have often voiced concern that
days of civilization. Almost all ancient societies have embarked on
important megaprojects have repeatedly
ambitious goals of creating monumental structures on one hand
failed due to extensive overruns, misunder-
or useful infrastructures on the other. Megaprojects, in modern
standing of expectations, or both. In this
times, have notably expanded beyond construction and have entered other
article, we contend that this pattern may not
fields and industries. Furthermore, rapid developments in technology over
be inevitable. In retrospect, despite pain-
the last 60 years, have enabled us to do what could only have been a dream
ful delays, some megaprojects eventually
years earlier. However, this progress has also presented enormous challenges
achieved their longer-term objectives. In this
to the organizations and nations undertaking the creation of megaprojects.
study, rather than asking why megaproj-
Perhaps the most impressive example of a modern-day megaproject was
ects fail, we asked whether these notable
the Apollo Moon-Landing program, which successfully fulfilled society’s
(and rare) accomplishments have anything
century-old dream of “Man Going to the Moon,” and signaled the beginning of
in common. We found that successful mega-
a new era in the fulfillment of human potential. Consequently, today, mega-
projects are distinguished by three major
projects are found in most areas of life—engineering, infrastructure, oil, avia-
elements: clear strategic vision, total align-
tion, information technology, shipping, and of course space. Many of these
ment, and adapting to complexity.
projects are initiated by government agencies or state and public organiza-
tions that usually have the resources, motivation, and time to run the highly
KEYWORDS: megaproject success;
complicated processes required to undertake such huge commitments, along
complexity; vision; alignment; context
with the endurance to bear the exorbitant costs involved.
As we already know, however, in retrospect, many famous megaprojects
were considered failures, due to extensive overruns or misunderstanding of
expectations, or both. Just recall the cases of the Concord—the supersonic
transporter built by the United Kingdom and France with a cost overrun of
1,100%; Boston’s Big Dig artery and tunnel project (a 220% cost overrun); or
Denver International Airport (with a 200% cost overrun). This ‘much too com-
mon’ pattern of megaprojects was recently dubbed by Flyvbjerg as “The Iron
Law” of “over time, over budget, over and over again” (2011). Although many
authors have studied the history of megaprojects, there is still no consensus
as to what the reasons are for this pattern.
But does it have to be that way? Is it inevitable that megaprojects will end
up in disappointment or unrealized expectations? Maybe it is time to learn
how to do it right! In fact, let’s not forget that despite this much-too-common
pattern, there are notable great successes after all. The immediate question
then is: What is their secret? What distinguishes between success and failure
in the megaproject arena?
In this article, we take a different approach to traditional studies. Rather
Project Management Journal, Vol. 48, No. 6, 29–46 than asking what the reasons are for failure, we attempt to discover what makes
© 2017 by the Project Management Institute a megaproject successful. Furthermore, we question: What are the ingredients
Published online at www.pmi.org/PMJ of these superstar megaprojects? Do they have anything in common? Perhaps

December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal  29


The Three Secrets of Megaproject Success
PAPERS

if we learn the critical elements that Theoretical Perspectives and Flyvbjerg (2014) also established
lead to success, we will be able to avoid the Literature a specific jargon in the discussion of
some “expected” disappointments in the We will engage several organizational megaprojects. In addition to the Iron
future. theories in this study. The first one is Law of “over budget over time, over and
In this research, we use an inte- complexity theory, which has received over again,” he also identified the four
grative strategic view to examine the increased interest in recent years. Vari- “sublimes” that drive megaproject devel-
success of such megaprojects and the ous authors (e.g., Geraldi, Maylor, & opment: the political, technological,
value they have left behind. We consider Williams, 2011; Pich, Loch, & De Meyer, economic, and aesthetic sublimes, and
success or failure based on an exten- 2002; Howell, Windahl, & Seidel, 2010; he introduced the Break-Fix Model as an
sion to a combined multi-dimensional Shenhar & Dvir, 2007) have suggested explanation of the Iron Law of megaproj-
and multi-stakeholder strategic concept ways to look at complexity in projects and ects. All these ideas have sharpened our
(Shenhar, Dvir, Levy, & Maltz, 2001; have offered methods for studying com- understanding and defined the discus-
Samset, 2010; Turner & Zolin, 2012; plexity and its impact (a more detailed sion of modern megaprojects.
Shao, Müller, & Turner, 2012). First, we discussion of theory is included later). Finally, Flyvbjerg provided a histori-
consider their long-term business and Another theory is structural contin- cal and longitudinal view about the rate
value creation perspective—did they gency (Pennings, 1992). Since “one size of megaproject success. With a 90-year
really make money and/or contribute does not fit all,” we intend to identify perspective, he claimed that nine out
to society at large? Second, obviously, differences among megaprojects using of ten megaprojects have cost overruns,
we cannot ignore the traditional view different criteria and dimensions, and and that overruns of more than 50% are
of success as meeting time, budget, and suggest ways to successfully address not uncommon. Hence, delays are a
scope goals. By using the strategic and diverse kinds of megaprojects. way of life for too many megaprojects,
retrospective thinking, however, we The third theory is transaction cost as well as benefits not being realized.
contend that although many megaproj- economics (Williamson, 1981, 2008; According to Flyvbjerg, in this interest-
ects did not meet their time and cost Douma & Schreuder, 2008; Luzzini, ing and very costly area of management,
objectives, we should not ignore the ­Caniato, Ronchi, & Spina, 2012), which best practice is an outlier and average
eventual value they delivered and the will be used to look at megaprojects as practice a disaster (2016).
long-term impact on different parts of transactions between capital investments However, Flyvbjerg himself admits:
society. As history shows, sometimes, and benefits for society. Since we are “This is not to say projects do not exist
what seems to be a failed project at the looking at projects as value creation pro- that were built on budget and time and
moment of completion, may often turn cesses, this view will help us analyze the delivered the promised benefits. The
out to be an enduring success. Just think net worth of benefits versus ­investments. ­Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain,
of the beauty and attractiveness of the is an example of such a rare breed.”
Sydney Opera House. And, finally, we On Megaproject Research (Flyvbjerg, 2014, p. 11). That “ray of hope”
will also distinguish between success One of the most well-known pioneers motivated our research.
and failure from different stakeholders’ in the literature of megaprojects is Bent Numerous researchers have provided
perspectives. Flyvbjerg, who directed our attention to different perspectives for the typical
Another perspective we adopt here is the unique phenomenon of a megapro- characteristics of megaprojects, refer-
the fact that each megaproject is “one of ject and its problematic challenges. In ring, for example, to complexity (Hass,
its kind.” With this perspective, we must a series of influential studies, Flyvbjerg 2009), technical and social complexity
address the differences among megaproj- (2011, 2014, 2016) provided a framework (de Bruijn & Leijten, 2008); and various
ects and look at varying ways of managing for the study of megaprojects. He defined dimensions of complexity such as time,
them. Thus, we engage different models megaprojects as “large-scale, complex cost, team composition, requirements,
of distinction among megaprojects based ventures that typically cost US$1 billion contracts, communications, risk, and
on innovation, complexity, constraints, or more, take many years to develop and technology (Kardes, Ozturk, Cavusgil,
and so forth, and use them to examine build, involve multiple public and private & Cavusgil, 2013; Kipp, Riemer, &
their selected managerial approaches. stakeholders, are transformational, and Wiemann, 2008). Another common per-
Our ultimate goal, therefore, is to deci- impact millions of people” (Flyvbjerg, spective in the investigation of mega-
pher what makes a successful megapro- 2014, p.  6). Megaprojects are not just projects is studying specific case studies
ject and to detect the major factors that magnified versions of smaller projects. or arrays of cases in an industry. The
contribute to its success. We will con- Megaprojects are completely different industries include the following:
clude with a few lessons for future enter- from regular projects in terms of their
prises embarking on future generations of levels of aspiration, stakeholder involve- • Construction—Brady and Davies (2014),
megaprojects. ment, lead times, complexity, and impact. on two megaprojects in the United

30  December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal


Kingdom; Brookes and Locatelli (2015), The correlations between structural could impact an entire organization, or
on the construction of 12 power plants in and environmental attributes have been one region may impact an entire coun-
Europe; He, Luo, Hu, and Chan (2015), well studied when the organization is try or the world. Another possible way to
on the Shanghai Expo construction proj- the unit of analysis; however, they have define complexity is: How hard (or easy)
ect in China been less studied in the realm of project is it to describe the system and how
• Transportation—Chapman (2016) on a management. The argument was that hard is it to understand its description?
rail megaproject in the United Kingdom; projects may exhibit variations in struc- However, complexity is also subjective,
Giezen (2012) on the Rotterdam metro ture based on context and environment that is, it also depends on the recipient’s
network (Lundin & Söderholm, 1995; Payne & level of knowledge (Bar-Yam, 2004).
• Energy—Van de Graaf and Sovacool Turner, 1999; Shenhar, 2001; Lenfle, Edmonds (1999, p. 72) defines com-
(2014), on four energy megaprojects in 2008; O’Connor & Rice, 2013). plexity as the “property of a model which
Europe and in Asia The evolution of project manage- makes it difficult to formulate its overall
• Aviation—Shenhar, Holzmann, Melamed, ment contingency theory was charac- behavior in a given language, even when
and Zhao (2016), on the Boeing 787 terized by the introduction of specific given reasonably complete information
• Information technology—Svejvig and context factors, which would distinguish about its atomic components and their
Nielsen (2014), on an information projects by different dimensions, lead- inter-relations.” Looking into the behav-
technology project in a Danish bank; ing to specific contingency management ior and inter-relations of the compo-
Gauld (2007), on a large New Zealand decisions (Hanisch & Wald, 2012). For nents, Simon (1972) states that complex
public hospital information system example, Henderson and Clark (1990) systems are comprised of a great num-
development have used a 2 3 2 matrix to distinguish ber of multiple-interacting components
between the components of a prod- in which it is difficult to understand the
Finally, another important point uct and the ways they are integrated. behavior of each component or to pre-
of view used to analyze megaprojects Wheelwright and Clark (1992) have dict the behavior of the entire system
is focu­sed on management styles and classified projects based on product once its starting conditions are known.
causes of the high rate of megaproject and process types. Turner and Cochrane Complementing this view, Williams
failure (Chapman, 2016; Lenfle & Loch, (1993) have grouped projects based on (1999) considers complexity as a condi-
2016; Patanakul, Kwak, Zwikael, & Liu, how well their goals and their means tion between numerous elements in a
2016). are defined, and Pich et al. (2002) have system and the numerous forms they
used a project’s information adequacy can relate to each other.
Contingency Theory in Highly (or level of uncertainty) to distinguish The discussions on complexity have
Complex Megaprojects between three strategies: instruction- broadened in recent years, encompass-
First emerging in the 1960s, structural ism, learning, and selectionism. ing multiple dimensions. For exam-
contingency theory suggests that, in ple, Geraldi et al. (2011) suggested  an
order to succeed, organizations should From Contingency to umbrella typology of five different
be aligned with their environment Complexity Theory dimensions of complexity. Howell et al.
(Burns & Stalker, 1961; Drazin & Van de Contingency theory has been recently (2010) presented uncertainty as the most
Ven, 1985; Pennings, 1992; Thompson, combined with complexity theory in common research theme in project con-
1967; Galbraith, 1982; Burgelman, 1983). studies of highly complex projects. But tingency theory (PCT), followed by com-
It was only a question of time before what exactly is complexity? According plexity, team empowerment, criticality,
researchers started realizing that proj- to Bar-Yam (2004), complexity is not and urgency; whereas, Bosch-Rekveldt,
ects could be viewed as “temporary just a matter of size, duration, or the Jongkind, Mooi, Bakker, and Verbraeck
organizations within organizations” number of parts that a specific system (2011) demonstrated the elements that
(Lundin & Söderholm, 1995); hence, has. Complex problems or systems are contribute to project complexity by
one can apply contingency theory to the ones that do not have an imme- introducing a technical, organizational,
projects as well (Pich et al., 2002; Turner diate resolution or understanding. In and environmental (TOE) framework for
& Cochrane, 1993; Shenhar, 2001). The other words, the resolution of complex complexities.
essence of these ideas is that “there is problems is not easily achieved. The It seems that numerous writers have
no one best way,” and “one size does more human knowledge and technol- attempted to conceptualize and specify
not fit all” (Henderson & Clark, 1990; ogy advance, the more existing systems levels of complexity; thus far, however,
Eisenhardt & Tabrizi, 1995; Balachandra become complex. Organizations are there is no standard framework for the
& Friar, 1997; Souder & Song, 1997; becoming more complex and are deal- assessment of a project’s complexity
Shenhar & Dvir, 2007; Sauser, Reilly, & ing with increasingly complex environ- (Shenhar et al., 2016). Based on the dis-
Shenhar, 2009). ments. A decision by one individual cussion above, however, in this article,

December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal  31


The Three Secrets of Megaproject Success
PAPERS

we will adopt a wide interpretation of interactions, informal exchanges, and success is insufficient (Atkinson, 1999;
the concept of complexity. Following even political benefits. In creating such Williams, 2005). Just as companies,
Simon’s (1972), Edmonds’ (1999), Bar- transactions, buyers and sellers are projects should be viewed as strategic
Yam’s (2004), and Geraldi et al.’s (2011) often changing their relationships from processes within a company and as a
arguments about the difficulty associ- a competitive environment to a bilat- means to executing the company’s strat-
ated with complex projects, we consider eral monopoly, which means that the egy. Project success measures started
complexity as any factor that may inhibit customer has a greater leverage over the to borrow from the enterprise success
a project from its timely completion. supplier and further collaboration mech- literature with the introduction of the
Such factors may include size, number anisms emerge, such as partial own- multidimensional strategic concept for
of elements, and degree of interconnect- ership, revenue sharing, and so forth. assessing project success (Lipovetsky,
edness; they may also include levels of Transaction Cost Economics involves Tishler, Dvir, & Shenhar, 1997). These
uncertainty, and degrees of constraints, specific assumptions about mechanisms studies have introduced new dimensions
as well as risk. Uncertainty may involve of governance (Williamson, 1996), such for assessing a project. For example,
technology, market uncertainty, poli- as behavioral assumptions, governance Shenhar et al.’s model (2001) includes
tics, economics, and the environment, structure, problematic property rights the dimensions of efficiency, impact
and constraints may involve time con- and contracts, discrete structural analy- on the customer, impact on the team,
straints, limited resources, restrictions, sis, and remediability. business success, and preparing for
regulations, and so forth (Geraldi et al., These characteristics may help in the future; and Samset’s model (2010)
2011). Thus, by using such a wide inter- explaining the difficulties and challen­ includes efficiency, effectiveness, rele-
pretation of complexity, we can include ges in megaprojects, on one hand and, vance, impact, and sustainability. Samset
everything that makes managing the on the other hand, in creating a deeper and Christensen (2015) also introduced
megaproject difficult or challenging. analysis of the benefits society derives the timing concept into the assess-
We have seen that any megapro- from embarking on megaprojects. ment of project success, suggesting that
ject we have studied exhibits unique assessments should be made at the idea
characteristics in all or almost all of the Megaproject Success Criteria phase, as an ex ante evaluation; at the
dimensions presented by Geraldi et al, Despite a wide body of literature on the implementation phase, as an interim
which are: structural complexity, uncer- issues of project success, there is still evaluation; at project completion, as
tainty, dynamics, pace, and sociopo- no consensus as to what success really final evaluation; and, later on, during
litical complexity. We also suggest that means and no standard framework has the operational phase, as an ex post
looking at the complexity of megaproj- emerged. Early on, studies used the com- evaluation.
ects through these “lenses” may provide mon triple constraints framework of time, The introduction of programs as
a deeper framework for understanding cost, and scope to assess the success of extensions of projects and as a col-
the nature of such projects and better a project. For decades this was accepted lection of related projects signaled yet
tools for analyzing their challenges. as a standard way to measure a project’s another development in our under-
success and it was reinforced both by standing of project success. New studies
Transaction Cost Theory researchers as well as practitioners; this emerged dealing with program, rather
Transaction cost evolved as an economi- view, however, has gradually shifted in than project success. For example, Shao
cal theory related to the cost incurred the last 20 years based on two trends. and Müller (2011) introduced a sixth
in making an economical exchange First, in the 1990s, Harvard’s Kaplan and dimension—social effects—to the pre-
between institutions. The term origi- Norton introduced the idea that com- vious ones. Recently, Shao, Müller, and
nated in the economical thinking of the panies should look at their success with Turner (2012) introduced into their
1930s by Commons (1931) and became a broader perspective than just finan- seminal quantitative study on program
highly popular through the works of cial metrics. Their “Balanced Scorecard” success, four dimensions of a program’s
Nobel Laureate, Oliver Williamson (1981, model became well known (Kaplan & capabilities: delivery, organizational,
1985, 1996), who coined the term Trans- Norton, 1996), with its four dimensions marketing, and innovation; and Turner
action Cost Economics (TCE). This of success: financial, customer, inter- and Zolin (2012) developed success
term is used today to explain a variety nal processes, and learning; later they scales for multiple stakeholders over
of behaviors. It departs from traditional updated their model to include a more multiple time frames.
neoclassical economics theory, which strategic perspective (Kaplan & Norton, This rich development in the study
assumes absolute rationality in any 2006). The second trend emerged when of project success was highly useful
transaction. Transaction cost econom- project management researchers started in our study. Megaprojects are clearly
ics involves considering transactions in realizing that measuring cost, time, and expanding the scope of projects and
their wider sense, including emotional quality for the assessment of project programs. While a megaproject can be

32  December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal


viewed as a single project, its influ- • Impact on Customer/User. Every or artistic achievement, entertainment,
ence, endurance, and expected value megaproject is initiated with a cus- ecology, or symbolic impact on the his-
are always beyond those of the immedi- tomer and user in mind. Consistent tory of humanity.
ate financial and functional results seen with many studies (e.g., Shao et al.,
in regular projects. Many megaprojects 2012; Shenhar, Dvir, Levy, & Maltz, By using these dimensions in our
will impact multiple stakeholders, future 2001; Atkinson, 1999), this dimension study, we acknowledge that megaproj-
generations, and the society at large for assesses to what extent the results of ects may not achieve all these objec-
centuries. Furthermore, using the argu- the project meet its scope and have an tives, and that possible tradeoffs need
ments of transaction cost theory, we can impact on customers and users. Are to be considered. This choice will also
clearly see that megaprojects are not they satisfied with the end result? Are enable us to be less critical of a single
simple transactions between producers they using the products and deliver- success dimension in one megaproject
and buyers—they create long-term rela- ables of the megaproject? Did the proj- or another. Instead, we look at mega-
tionships between contractors, spon- ect improve the customers’ quality of projects as potentially benefiting one or
sors, communities, government, and life, their effectiveness, efficiency, their more groups of stakeholders (Turner &
the public at large. The value created business, and so forth? Zolin, 2012). Specifically, if things are
by a megaproject is often much more • Business/Financial Success. Financial not working in the short term, perhaps
significant and sustainable than that in concerns are inseparable from mega- a longer time perspective will compen-
a simpler project contract. For example, projects (Flyvbjerg, 2014; Shenhar & sate our judgment of the projects we
the Apollo Moon landing will always Dvir, 2007; Turner & Zolin, 2012). Such studied (Samset & Christensen, 2015).
be remembered as a historical land- projects require huge investments by As we will see, the criteria in select-
mark in human development history, public or private sponsors and exten- ing megaprojects for our study required
and the English Channel Tunnel has sive efforts by performing organiza- that each project meet at least one of our
forever reduced the geographical sepa- tions and contractors. Investors always four dimensions of success. This selec-
ration between the British islands and expect getting their investment back, tion enabled us to see the megaproject
Europe, essentially making them one along with significant profits. Similarly, phenomenon in its broader context,
continent. performing organizations need to which considered both its short- and
Based on these multiple perspectives, cover expenses and keep their busi- long-term aspects. Obviously, as we
we will analyze the success of megaproj- nesses growing. describe later, of special interest are
ects using the following four dimensions: • Impact on Society. This dimension those megaprojects that succeeded in
efficiency, customer, business/financial, is probably what distinguishes most all four dimensions.
and society: megaprojects from other “regular” proj-
ects. It reflects the long-term impact Research Method and Data
• Efficiency. To what extent did the that the project had on society, human- Description
me­gaproject fulfill its cost, time, and ity, science, and the environment, as The qualitative analysis method applied
other productivity goals? Although typ- well as the well-being of countries and was case study research, which, as
ically researchers distinguish between regions. Such an impact extends beyond Flyvbjerg (2006) explained, is the most
time, cost, and scope (the Iron Trian- immediate delivery and users’ experi- appropriate approach to supporting a
gle), we look at time and cost together, ence concerns (Samset & Christensen, detailed understanding of real-life situ-
since there is a strong correlation in 2015; Turner & Zolin, 2012; Shao et al., ations. For the purpose of this study,
most megaprojects between the two. 2012; Shenhar et al., 2001). As history we used a multiple case study research
In addition, we consider scope as part shows, some megaprojects are initi- strategy (Eisenhardt, 1989; Stake, 2013),
of the issues that concern the customer, ated by prominent leaders for political which enables the analysis of poten-
as we show next. While megaproject reasons, whereas others are driven by tial constructs of theory. The initial
efficiency has played an important role environmental, aesthetic, or special data were based on our data collection
in many studies, we suggest seeing it as events interests. For example, Paris’ of more than 500 project case studies
only one part of the integrated picture Arc de Triumph, Washington’s Lincoln over the years. Each case was created
for assessing megaprojects. As history Memorial, or Rome’s Parthenon, are by a team of two to three researchers
has proven, many megaprojects that historical evidence of humanity’s inge- who were trained in project manage-
initially did not meet time and cost nuity, imagination, dominance, and ment research and were guided to write
goals, turned out to be huge successes pride. This view suggests that consider- their reports according to a common
in other dimensions, and, in retrospect, ing a megaproject’s long-term impact protocol of data collection, interview-
are viewed later on as great success on society is legitimate, be it in terms of ing, and case report structure. Each
stories. ­environment, quality of life, scientific case included information about the

December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal  33


The Three Secrets of Megaproject Success
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project’s objectives, management pro- 3. The project was highly innovative in previous phases of the study or the data
cesses, and outcomes. When interviews its concept, technology, design, or collection. We asked them to assess, as
were not possible, the data used for operational point of view. a team, the success of each one of the
analysis were based on open informa- 4. The project outcome was intended to cases and indicate their agreement with
tion sources and academic and profes- have a major impact for a long time on each success criterion on a five-point
sional articles. its sponsors, users, and society at large. scale, ranging from “totally disagree” to
As candidates for this study, we “totally agree.” The selected megaproj-
selected megaprojects only if they met The selection of final cases and their ects were those that received a mini-
each one of the following criteria: analysis were performed in steps: We mum score of 5 on at least one success
first identified 42 candidate megaproj- dimension. We then reduced the scale
1. The project was a major undertaking ects that met all four selection criteria, to three levels: Success, Partial Suc-
of strategic importance to the spon- according to our own judgment. This cess, and Failure. “Success” was ranked
soring organization. list was then presented to a team of two as level 5; “Partial Success” as level 3
2. The project met the definition of independent experts who were highly or 4; and “Failure” as level 1 or 2. This
“megaproject” in terms of cost, vol- experienced project managers and exec- selection resulted in a final group of
ume, and complexity. utives and had not participated in the 14 megaprojects, presented in Table 1

Financial/
Project Customer/ Business Impact on
Name Product Industry Efficiency User Impact Success Society
 1 Los Angeles First 4.4 miles of the Los Angeles Metro, Construction Success Failure Partial Success Failure
Metro: between Downtown and North Hollywood
The Red Line
 2 Three Gorges World’s largest hydroelectric dam Energy Failure Success Partial Success Partial Success
Dam
 3 The English Rail tunnel of 50 km, linking the United Construction Failure Success Partial Success Success
Channel Tunnel Kingdom and France, beneath the English
Channel
 4 Sydney Opera Architectural wonder of performing arts Construction Failure Success Success Success
House center in Australia
 5 Boeing 787, A major aircraft, made largely of Aerospace Failure Success Success Success
Dreamliner composites
 6 Denver Airport International Airport to handle 52 million Construction Failure Success Success Success
passengers per year
 7 Hubble Space Space telescope orbiting above Earth’s Aerospace Failure Success Success Success
Telescope atmosphere
 8 London 2012 Olympic Park, Village and transport Construction Success Success Success Success
Olympic Park
 9 NOVA New Bank IT platform ICT Success Success Success Success
10 World Trade A large commercial complex in lower Construction Success Success Success Success
Center New York City
11 Mall of The largest retail mall and entertainment Construction Success Success Success Success
America complex in the United States
12 Kepler Space vehicle to discover planets, beyond Aerospace Success Success Success Success
the solar system, in search for potential life
13 Guggenheim A museum of modern and contemporary Construction Success Success Success Success
Museum Bilbao art, Spain
14 Apollo Complex mission for taking astronauts to Aerospace Success Success Success Success
the moon and returning them back to Earth
Table 1: Collection of research megaprojects, industries, and success assessment.

34  December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal


along with their industries and degree several technical challenges, such as The English Channel Tunnel
of success on each dimension. hydrocarbon gases in the ground, aban- Although the initial idea to connect
In the final step of analysis, we per- doned oil wells, contaminated under- Britain with the European Continent
formed structured content analysis using ground water, and high seismic activity. was raised as early as 1802, because of
a pre-defined coding scheme based on Despite all this, the project was com- political, technical, and financial rea-
literature review for categorization of pleted and the line was opened to the sons, it was not officially launched until
success factors, and systematic accu- public eight months ahead of sched- the 1980s. This special project required
mulation of qualitative descriptions ule, with no budget overruns, in January a treaty between Britain and France,
(Bullock & Tubbs, 1987; Eisenhardt, 1989; 1993. Overall, the construction of the which was signed by the two coun-
Krippendorff, 2004). An initial list of cat- Metro was very successful with regard tries in 1987. The tunnel was a build-
egories revealed 37 factors that were to the classical criteria of scope, qual- own-operate-transfer (BOOT) project
collected from previous literature and ity, budget, and time. However, from the with a 65-year concession. The project’s
confirmed during the structured con- financial and public perspectives, the actual costs ran 80% over budget, and
tent analysis. To reach a concise opera- project failed to fulfill its expectations its financing costs were 140% higher
tional shortlist, however, we combined (Stapleton, 1993; Stopher, 1993). While than forecasted (Flyvbjerg, Buzelius, &
similarly close factors by using a cluster expecting to see one million passengers Rothengatter, 2003). In addition to the
analysis method, which is the process of during the first year of operation, the engineering and technical complexities
grouping a set of objects or observations actual number was less than 60,000. As a of building a tunnel of this magnitude,
in such a way that objects in the same result, the remaining phases of the proj- it required an extremely complex orga-
group are more similar to each other than ect were dropped a few years later when nization that had to deal with cultural
to those in other groups. Specifically, the city realized that the longer-term differences, political and financial com-
we employed a manual density-based mission of the system was not realized. plications, conflicts of interest, lack of
clustering data-mining process similar leadership at the highest level, a poorly
to the famous DBSCAN (Density-Based The Three Gorges Dam written contract, and conflicting health
Spatial Clustering of Applications with The Three Gorges Dam (TGD) in Yiling and safety concerns (Shenhar & Dvir,
Noise) algorithm (Ester, Kriegel, Sander, District, China, is the world’s largest 2007). Its unique organizational struc-
& Xu, 1996). This process groups together hydroelectric dam, managed by a gov- ture and financing system, which had
points that are closely packed by con- ernment-owned company. The dam is to establish mutual adjustments and
necting points within certain distance a concrete gravity type with a height of coordination of stakeholders, was not
thresholds, and where each cluster con- 607 feet and total water storage capac- applied. As a result, the project did not
sists of all density-connected objects. The ity of 39.3 billion square meters. The meet its original business objective
process is relatively simple and required project was proposed in the early 1950s (Genus, 1997; Chang, 2013). In retro-
no more than three clustering cycles. and officially approved in 1958. It did spect, however, from the public good’s
Each cluster was named at the end of not start, however, until 1993, with con- perspective, the Channel is clearly a
each cycle, until no further clustering struction planned to take place between successful project. Not only does it con-
was needed, based on our assessment. 1994 and 2009 (Ma, 2010). Several addi- tinue to transport people and goods
A detailed discussion of the content and tional projects were needed later to across Europe, it continues to create
results of this process is provided in the make the dam fully operational, thus economic value to all involved European
analysis section of the article. delaying completion to 2011 (Xu, Tan, nations.
In the following sections, we briefly & Yang, (2013). The cost, which was
describe each one of the research estimated at US$22.5 billion, reached The Sydney Opera House
megaprojects. US$27.6 billion. The project involved The original project plan of the Sydney
significant environmental, ecologi- Opera House, as envisioned by the New
The Los Angeles Metro: cal, and socio-economic implications, South Wales government in the 1950s,
The Red Line because it posed possible geological included a schedule of five years and an
The Metro Red Line subway construc- hazards to the surrounding area. The estimated budget of about AU$7 million.
tion project was the first 4.4 miles of the main long-term challenge involving When its doors were eventually opened
Los Angeles Metro, which was managed the dam is mitigating its environmental only in 1973, it was 16 years later than
by the Rail Construction Corporation negative consequences and securing its scheduled and with an actual cost of
(RCC), a government-affiliated orga- positive impacts, such as flood control, AU$102 million. As a public construc-
nization. In 1980, city voters approved energy production, increased navigabil- tion project aimed to achieve long-term
funding for an integrated railway sys- ity of the Yangtze River, and access to or infrastructure goals, the project was
tem. During execution, the project faced fresh water (Fu et al., 2010). plagued by numerous stops and starts

December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal  35


The Three Secrets of Megaproject Success
PAPERS

and endless political battles. From a tra- Denver’s Stapleton Airport had outgrown coveries, erasing the negative image
ditional view of project success, how- its maximum capacity. The construction people still hold of it in their minds
ever, the Sydney Opera House project work started in November of that year, (Zimmerman, 2010). For a long time,
was a failed project. Yet, the project was with a planned schedule of less than four the government, scientific community,
eventually perceived as a success story, years. Although most of the construction and society in general have perceived
creating fame and a steady income to progressed as planned, the overall proj- Hubble as a failure; from a strategic and
the city of Sydney, and forever remains ect could not be completed due to the retrospective point of view, however, it
one of the most fascinating buildings in innovative, state-of-the-art automated can indeed, be considered a success.
the world. baggage system that had to be integrated
into the new airport. The development London 2012 Olympic Park
Boeing 787: The Dreamliner of this system, which was to be the larg- In general, the Olympic Games are a uni­
The 787 Dreamliner project was devel- est and most advanced in the world, que mega event, which involves a com-
oped by Boeing in the early 2000s with encountered numerous mechanical and plex construction megaproject, national
the intent of responding to the growing software problems (Szyliowicz & Goetz, social and environmental initiatives,
demand for next-generation, advanced, 1995; Montealegre & Keil, 2000). Even- and knowledge mobilization challenges
and highly efficient airplanes. The proj- tually, to avoid further delays, manage- (Parent, MacDonald, & Goulet, 2014;
ect was approved in 2004 with a schedule ment agreed to integrate a traditional Grabher & Thiel, 2015). Its implementa-
of four years. However, the completion baggage system to enable the opening tion started in July 2005 when London
of the project was delayed by almost of the airport. The challenge involved was awarded the 2012 Olympic and
40 months and its cost, which is esti- in this relatively small subsystem was Paralympic Games. As a time-critical
mated at about US$40 billion, was “well underestimated when all components project, with a deadline defined by the
more than twice the original estimate” in this projects were managed in the opening date of the Games on 27 July
(Mecham, 2011). The reasons for such same way. 2012, the construction work, composed
extensive delay involved technologi- of 70 projects, was completed one year
cal and organizational challenges (Alt- The Hubble Space Telescope ahead of schedule; but the original
feld, 2010; Shenhar et al., 2016). From The Hubble telescope project was con- budget, which was almost US$4 billion
the technology perspective, the chal- ceived by NASA in the 1960s, formally (£2.4 billion), was finally increased to
lenge was to design an aircraft body funded in 1977, and prepared for launch more than US$15 billion (£9.3 billion).
using lightweight composite materials in 1986. In early 1990 it was put into The Olympic management committee,
and to develop new avionics and com- orbit, 370 miles above the Earth’s sur- the municipality of London, the project
puting systems (Ye, Lu, Su, & Meng, face, when it was noted that there was committee, and the executive managers
2005). Additionally, from the organiza- a distinct spherical aberration in the worked together as an integrated organi-
tional perspective, Boeing outsourced telescope’s primary mirror. In 1993, zation throughout the project life cycle
an unprecedented portion of the design, the defect was repaired and upgraded in order to plan, design, execute, and
engineering, manufacturing, and pro- in several consecutive missions. Hub- deliver as specified by LOCOG (London
duction to a global network of 700 local ble is operating and is planned for an Organising Committee of the Olympic
and foreign suppliers, which resulted additional 15 to 20 years of service Games). The management style that
in more than 70% foreign development (Harwood, 2013); it involved the incor- enabled the completion of the complex
and transformed the traditional sup- poration of non-existent technologies project was based on a layered struc-
ply chain into a development chain that needed to be developed during the ture of systems integration; it required
(MacPherson & Pritchard, 2005; Tang, project’s effort, which thus classified it careful coordination of and communi-
Zimmerman, Nelson, & James, 2009). as a super-high-tech project (Shenhar & cation with multiple internal and exter-
The company was struggling with these Dvir, 2007). On the managerial aspect, nal stakeholders with different interests
challenges for more than three years the project enjoyed top management and priorities to manage the interfaces
until it finally went into service. Despite support, in which Congress and several between systems (Brady & Davies, 2014;
the delay, it seems that the 787 Dream- NASA centers worked together in full Davies & Mackenzie, 2014; Davies, 2016).
liner created a well-desired plane, which concert. Although originally perceived
will continue to produce extensive otherwise, in the end, it appears that NOVA
financial business results in the future. NASA was competent at the techni- Very large information and communi-
cal, organizational, and personnel man- cation technology (ICT) projects, do
Denver International Airport agement challenges (Chaisson, 1998). not typically fit the formal definitions
In 1989, Denver voters mandated the As the telescope went online, Hubble of megaprojects. Yet it is interesting to
con­
struction of a new airport, since continues to soar with continuous dis- review such an effort as an example of a

36  December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal


megaproject in this industry. Typically, well organized for its level of complexity Program. Its goal is “to survey our region
however, as Flyvbjerg noted (2011), and stakeholder involvement. In ret- of the Milky Way galaxy to discover
large ICT projects run over time and rospect, throughout the entire project, Earth-size or larger planets in or near
over budget and fail to deliver many management demonstrated the right the habitable zone of solar-like stars
of the requirements. The NOVA proj- approach with leadership, which created and determine how many of the billions
ect, however, demonstrates a successful high energy and motivated the team, of stars in our galaxy have such planets”
implementation of a highly complex and a strategic, long-term perspective, (NASA, 2009, p. 11). The spacecraft was
IT platform transition in the mid-sized which was focused on the economic, launched on time, on 7 March 2009
Danish Bank, Jyske Bank (Svejvig & environmental, social, and political suc- to detect terrestrial planets, both rocky
Nielsen, 2014). The project was imple- cesses (Gillespie, 2002). and Earth-size, around other stars, in
mented between 2010 and 2012, through search of possible life in the universe.
147 sub projects. The project employed The Mall of America The project was managed well and fol-
900 workers who were inspired by the The Mall of America is the largest retail lowed well-defined procedures and
Apollo project, as a leading “metaphor mall and entertainment complex in the plans (Shenhar et al., 2005). The project
for the NOVA’s journey” (p. 40). Based United States and encompasses more was planned for 3.5 years of opera-
on data collected through interviews than 520 stores, dozens of restaurants, tion, with a budget of US$600 million.
with various stakeholders, Svejvig and nightclubs, theaters, a mini-golf court, It was extended to more than 7 years
Nielsen (2014) concluded that clear and an indoor theme park. The proj- in November 2012, when its primary
vision, inspiring leadership, and highly ect was initiated in 1988 when the city mission was about to end and an inde-
structured project communication and of Bloomington, Minnesota, requested pendent panel of senior scientists rec-
documentation systems were keys to proposals for development of the ommended Kepler be kept alive through
its success. 78-acre site. Preliminary design began 2016 (Clark, 2012). The novelty of this
in March 1989 and actual construction breakthrough project required careful
The World Trade Center started in June 1989. The project was attention to the management of require-
Although the original World Trade Cen- new with respect to size and design ments, and the complexity of the system
ter (WTC) complex was destroyed in the challenges, including acoustical control, called for intensive integration and for-
September 11 attacks, it is still an exam- extensive underground systems, water mal procedures for communicating and
ple of project management at its best. attractions that created high humid- coordinating among project teams.
The original World Trade Center was a ity, and skylights that required develop-
large complex of seven buildings in New ing new software to support special 3D Guggenheim Museum Bilbao
York City, which was built to revitalize computer models to predict heat gain. The museum of modern and contem-
lower Manhattan and serve as the first The fast track construction method porary art, located in Bilbao, Spain, was
visible sign that the economy of New applied in this project mandated a flex- designed and built by the well-known
York City was transforming from man- ible management style, which enabled architect Frank Gehry. It was initiated
ufacturing to service (Birch, 2006). In the Mall of America to open its doors in 1991 with the goal of increasing the
1962, Yamasaki was selected as the lead to the public on 11 August 1992, thus city’s sources of income. On 18 October
architect, and the actual construction completing the project on time albeit 1997, the museum, which has special
work began in 1968. At the time of their with some budget overrun. Since then, curves on the exterior and a unique inte-
completion, the “Twin Towers” were it receives more than 40 million visitors rior designed around a large light-filled
the tallest buildings in the world. The annually, although it was originally tar- open-roofed entrance hall, opened. This
project involved technical challenges, geted to host only 3 million visitors per megaproject completed on time, on
such as building to the Bathtub system, year. “Joe Talentino, president of MSA budget, and it met the requirements. In
which was aimed to resolve the problem (Melvin Simon & Associates, the man- an interview with Bent Flyvbjerg (2005)
of reaching bedrock through the water aging partner and overall project man- for Harvard Design Magazine, Gehry
table of the Hudson River; the elevator ager), attributes the earlier opening to explained the museum’s success: First,
system, aimed to transport the 50,000 several factors, including close interac- he ensured that what he calls the “orga-
tenants working in the towers; and a tion of building team members, absence nization of the artist” prevailed during
revolutionary exterior structural column of strikes, and hands-on involvement by construction, in order to prevent politi-
design. In addition, the project involved the owner” (Wright, 1992). cal and business interests from interfer-
many political and logistical issues ing with the design. In addition, detailed
related to the selection of the site and Kepler drawings and plans were prepared in
implications for displacing existing busi- The Kepler project is a special purpose advance to enable realistic cost estima-
nesses and residents. The project was space mission in the NASA Discovery tions that could be controlled. Third,

December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal  37


The Three Secrets of Megaproject Success
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the project team used technology for last in December 1972. Although some a successful project, and leading to
digital design models, which facilitated have argued that “the Apollo program consistently successful projects. Dvir
precise quantification of the elements of was a genuine bubble . . .” (Gisler & and Shenhar (2011) summarized their
the building. The strategic success of the Sornette, 2009, p. 67), it is considered findings on successful projects in a list
Guggenheim Museum Bilbao is assessed an exceptional triumph that laid the of seven factors: exhorted focus on the
by the significant growth of tourism, scientific foundation for developments creation of competitive advantage and
which has a positive impact on Bilbao in many areas of advanced technology, value; a long period of project defini-
(Plaza, 2000), as well as the museum’s including avionics, telecommunica- tion; unique project culture; a highly
effects on Bilbao’s image, tourism, and tions, and computers. qualified leader with unconditional
the local economy (Plaza, 2006). support; maximum use of existing tech-
Analysis and Findings nologies; flexible teams that adapted
Apollo—Moon Landing As shown in Table 1, each megaproject quickly to technology and changes;
The Apollo program was initiated in selected for our sample was successful and strong partnership, ownership, and
the early 1960s by the late President in at least one dimension. Our objective pride. As also mentioned earlier, once
John F. Kennedy with the vision of land- was to identify the pivotal factors that we compared the literature with the
ing the first American on the Moon were responsible for the achievements outcomes of our sample project con-
before the end of the decade. The pro- of the most successful megaprojects. tent analysis, we ended up with a list of
gram included a three-part spacecraft to As mentioned, we began with evidence 37 items, which were further processed
take two astronauts to the Moon’s sur- from the extensive body of literature on via cluster analysis.
face, support them while on the Moon, project success factors. For example, in The iterative cluster analysis pro-
and return them to Earth. It was clear their classical study, Pinto and Slevin cess reduced the number of factors
that this program, which encompassed (1987) identified nine factors: clearly into smaller groups of similar nature,
17 missions, involved extremely innova- defined goals, competent project man- until no further reduction was possi-
tive developments, including response ager, top management support, compe- ble. For example, factors such as clearly
to radiation, meteoroid hazards, and tent project team members, sufficient defined goals, project mission, and
threats presented by the unknown lunar resources allocation, adequate commu- exhorted focus on exceptional value
surface environment. Based on a risk- nication channels, control mechanisms, were eventually grouped together with
aversion strategy, everything was tested feedback capabilities, and responsive- other factors into the first main factor
and retested, with numerous safety ness to clients. Pinto and Slevin (1988) of “clear strategic vision.” Similarly, ade-
mechanisms put in place to ensure also analyzed the impact of a similar quate communication, control mech-
nothing could go wrong. The final con- list of ten factors: project mission, top anisms, responsiveness to client, and
figuration and the design freeze had management support, project sched- strong partnership, ownership, and pride
to be significantly delayed until all ule plan, client consultation, person- ended up as part of the second factor of
unknowns were resolved. The Apollo nel, technical tasks, client acceptance, “total alignment.” Factors such as using
program was part of NASA’s portfolio monitoring and feedback, communica- existing knowledge and collaboration,
activities at this time, with an increasing tion, and troubleshooting, at different flexible teams adapting quickly to tech-
share of budget—starting at 10% in 1962 stages of the project life cycle. Belassi nology and changes, and classical risk
and increasing to 70% in 1967 (Gisler and Tukel (1996) reviewed project man- management were parts of the factors
& Sornette, 2009). The Apollo program agement literature and classified suc- that made up the third main group of
was originally funded with US$3 bil- cess factors into four groups: related “adapting to complexity.” Overall, mega-
lion, but later requested and received to the project, related to the project project success was distinguished by
US$20 billion. The actual plan, however, manager and team members, related three different (and unrelated factors):
was US$13 billion, with the remain- to the organization, and related to the clear strategic vision, total alignment,
der secured as reserved contingency. external environment. After reviewing and adapting to complexity (Figure 1).
That decision was appropriate, since 60 relevant articles, Balachandra and
the actual final cost of the program was Friar (1997) presented a total number Clear Strategic Vision
US$19.4 billion (Stine, 2008). The suc- of 72 factors related to market, tech- From their early start until completion,
cessful Moon landing of Apollo 11 in July nology, organization, and environment. all successful megaprojects are guided
1969 symbolizes a victory for man, not In his search for a comprehensive set by a clear strategic vision. A vision is a
only on unknown space territories but of factors, Cooke-Davies (2002) real- simple and exciting articulation of the
also on new and far-reaching technolo- ized that his list of 12 factors relates project’s outcome, which is defined in
gies. Five subsequent Apollo missions to three perspectives: leading to proj- words that everyone can understand
also landed astronauts on the Moon, the ect management success, leading to and imagine. It simply depicts the

38  December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal


Figure 1: The main ingredients of megaproject success.

state of the world after the project is waves of emotions and sympathy every- power of exciting visions and know how
completed. The strategic part means where. Remember also that the vision to articulate and communicate them in
that the project had set a highly desir- of Apollo 13, the rescue mission of the an effective way to inspire and motivate
able and important long-term goal, three astronauts in a damaged vehicle all people involved. And, surely, they
which is expected to have an enduring on their way to the moon, was: “Failure know how to combine vision with the
impact beyond its immediate results. is not an option.” The vision of the Mall right strategy to implement it (Patanakul
There is also a clear idea on how to of America was: “Build the largest and & Shenhar, 2012).
achieve this vision. A vision is often most fun mall in America.” The vision
described in visual and emotional ways; of the World Trade Center was to build Total Alignment
other times the vision describes how a commercial and trade center that All successful megaprojects in our
people’s lives will change, improve, or would revitalize the economy in Lower study were characterized by full align-
be simplified once the project is com- Manhattan. And the vision of Kepler ment of all parties with the goals, the
pleted. For example, you will be able to was: “Looking if there are others like us means, and the difficulties expected.
“travel from Paris to London in less than out there.” Such alignment is not easy to achieve.
two hours.” Visions serve all stakeholders and The planning and implementation of a
We must emphasize that a vision many goals. They articulate in simple megaproject necessitate coordination
does not deal with profits or financial terms what the project is all about— of a large network of stakeholders with
performance, nor is it described in tech- customers know what to expect; spon- different interests and agendas. In this
nical terms. The best visions are simple sors and performing organizations have network one can often find the spon-
and yet able to evoke emotional reac- a clear idea of what whey will create and sor; the performing organization; con-
tions. For example, the Apollo program how to communicate and spread the tractors; subcontractors; customers and
had the simplest and most powerful word about it; and employees compre- users; and numerous political, financial,
vision, defined by President Kennedy hend what they are a part of, and clearly and societal organizations and agen-
in 1961: “Put a man on the Moon and understand how their work can contrib- cies. First and foremost, the sponsor
bring him back before the end of the ute to the new creation. Finally, a strong and the performing organizations must
decade.” These simple words were clear vision is strongly linked to exceptional have a clear and shared understanding
to every human being, and they created leadership. Great leaders understand the of the vision and how to achieve it.

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The Three Secrets of Megaproject Success
PAPERS

Similarly, customers and users should actually used it. A better alignment with framework (The Diamond Model) for
be involved upfront and their voices end users could have made this engi- classifying a project according to four
should be heard and considered; after neering achievement a highly desirable dimensions (novelty, technology, com-
all, they will be impacted by the result and profitable service success. plexity, and pace) and adapt its man-
and they will become a major factor in agement to its unique classification.
asserting success at the end. Finally, a Adapting to Complexity According to this classification, almost
successful megaproject must be aligned Complexity is perhaps the most prob- all megaprojects will be considered
with the community and environment lematic area in understanding the mana- “arrays” on the Diamond’s dimension
in which it functions and it involves gerial issues of megaprojects. Ironically, of system complexity. However, using
cities, neighborhoods, political figures, it is also less discussed in the literature. the wider perspective of this article,
environmental groups, and advocates. Yet, many failures in projects could be each megaproject should learn to adapt
To achieve total alignment, megaproj- attributed to insufficient understand- itself to its unique complexities in all
ects must create clear rules, policies, ing of the essence of complexity and dimensions to overcome its specific
and guidelines about communication, failure to deal with it properly. Mega- challenges. Obviously, other challenges
reporting, terminology, common tools, projects are highly complex creations of should also be considered, such as Pich
and so forth, and make sure all parties humanity, built to serve nations, cities, et al.’s (2002) rate of change, or Geraldi
are following them. Lack of alignment is societies, and sometimes millions of et al.’s (2011) socio-political complexity.
quickly noticed, since it can cause con- people. By nature, megaprojects involve The best managed projects in our
flict and huge delays. One cannot expect an enormous degree of complexity, but study followed this concept and their
to successfully put a huge creation in a few organizations know exactly how managers clearly adapted appropriate
public environment or neighborhood to assess the degree of complexity in ways of dealing with their complexities.
without the support and alignment of their projects and to determine how to For example, in the Apollo project,
all those who may be affected. manage them. Although some writers NASA understood that going to the
The most successful megaprojects have tried to conceptualize and specify moon is extremely complex, risky, and
were aware of this need and worked very levels of complexity, thus far, no com- uncertain. The agency put in place
hard to achieve such alignment. For mon framework has been established numerous mechanisms for testing and
example, the London Olympic Village for assessing a project’s complexity examining everything. Nothing was left
planners and managers built a coordi- (Shenhar et al., 2016). to chance, and the mind set was: “it
nated network of contractors using a As mentioned in the theory part, in is unsafe to fly, unless there is proof
set of common rules and risk-sharing this article we have adopted the broad that nothing can go wrong.” In con-
agreements that created a mutually view that complexity is any factor that trast, Boeing 787 Dreamliner’s program
strong interest for all. Similarly, the may inhibit a project from timely com- adopted a style that was used before
builders of the first World Trade Cen- pletion; in other words, anything that in its previous highly successful 777
ter in Manhattan were managed by the makes managing the megaproject diffi- program. The difference was that the
executives of the Port Authority, which cult or challenging. Thus, in the context Dreamliner had used the new technol-
was also the sponsor of the project. of a megaproject, one may view com- ogy of composite materials, which was
They were tightly aligned with New York plexity and challenge as synonyms. By never used on such a large scale; it also
City’s government as well as many mer- adapting a project to its complexity we used a new business and profit-sharing
chant organizations, financial institu- mean that management must under- model as well as a new organization for
tions, restaurants, and other businesses. stand the unique challenges of each the development effort. These decisions
In contrast, the Los Angeles Subway project and select the appropriate man- made the Dreamliner a high-tech array
project was defined and managed as an agement style, resources, organizations, project, whereas it was managed as a
engineering design-and-build project. processes, skills, equipment, tools, and medium-tech system project (Shenhar
While it was created to serve millions technology to meet these challenges. et al., 2016). The Dreamliner’s extensive
of passengers, there was no real con- Obviously, different megaprojects delays were clearly a result of select-
nection or alignment with the citizens have varying degrees of complexity ing the wrong style for the degree of
of the city during the project. No one and clearly, “one size does not fit all” challenges involved.
prepared potential travelers for the new (Shenhar, 2001). Therefore, effective Table 2 summarizes our findings
form of transportation, and no incen- management of a megaproject calls for regarding the presence of these elements
tives were offered for using it during the understanding the degree of complex- in our research cases; it also shows the
first period. Although the project was ity and adapting its management to its number of dimensions rated as success
highly efficient and completed on time, specific kind and degree of complex- out of a total of four dimensions, as
it was no wonder that very few people ity. Shenhar and Dvir (2007) offered a listed in Table 1: efficiency, impact on

40  December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal


quickly and cheaply; unfortunately,
Clear Success
Strategic Total Adapting to Score however, some of these subcontractors
Project Name Vision Alignment Complexity Out of 4 proved inadequate at doing the job.
They lacked the training and guidance
 1 Los Angeles Metro 2 2 1 1
from the main contractor on how to
 2 Three Gorges Dam 1 2 2 1 develop the components for this highly
 3 The Channel Project 1 2 2 2 complex and uncertain aircraft.
 4 Sydney Opera House 1 2 2 3 It is interesting to note that of the
remaining megaprojects in this study,
 5 Boeing 787: The Dreamliner 1 2 2 3
five have failed to achieve efficiency
 6 Denver Airport 1 1 2 3 goals and had extensive delays; however,
 7 Hubble Space Telescope 1 1 2 3 they were quite successful in the other,
 8 London 2012 Olympic Park 1 1 1 4 longer-term dimensions. This group
includes the Denver Airport, Channel
 9 NOVA 1 1 1 4
Tunnel, Sydney Opera House, Boeing
10 World Trade Center 1 1 1 4 787 Dreamliner, and Hubble Space Tele-
11 Mall of America 1 1 1 4 scope. It is notable that they all had a
12 Kepler 1 1 1 4 good strategic vision. What was miss-
ing in this group was either the total
13 Guggenheim Museum Bilbao 1 1 1 4
alignment and/or the ability to adapt
14 Apollo 1 1 1 4 to complexity. Not surprising, it seems
Table 2: Megaproject success factors. that vision is the most critical element
in the long-term success of a project.
No vision essentially guarantees fail-
customer/user, business/financial suc- the project’s vision, are committed to its ure; however, lack of alignment and/or
cess, and impact on society. success, and knew their role in making failure to address a project’s complex-
it work; and, finally, they knew how to ity, may often hurt on-time delivery,
Discussion identify the unique complexity and spe- and thus the financial performance of a
The megaprojects in our study were cific challenges involved in the project megaproject.
completed with varying degrees of suc- and to select the right approach to deal- To complete our study’s lessons on
cess. Perhaps not surprising, we found ing with this complexity. why megaprojects succeed or fail, we
a typical and consistent pattern in the As we have seen, not all megaproj- make two observations on past events:
most successful megaprojects. Seven ects in our study followed these three In the first observation, we note the
megaprojects have succeeded “across rules. For example, the Sydney Opera distinction between the beautiful build-
the board,” resulting in high efficiency, House had a clear vision set by the ings of Guggenheim and Sydney and
highly satisfied users and customers, architect from the outset. However, their stories. The Guggenheim Museum
good financial rewards to their perform- there was lack of alignment between in Bilbao, Spain, was designed and built
ing organizations and sponsors, and the city, the architect, and the political by the American architect Frank Gehry.
creating an enduring impact on society system around it, which led to extensive Gehry created his own project man-
and the public good. There is no doubt conflicts and unchecked spending, and agement organization, which included
that Apollo, Bilbao’s Guggenheim, the the project has failed to estimate the designers, planners, financial analysts,
Mall of America, London Olympic Park, levels of complexity involved in such marketing managers, and builders.
or Kepler belong to this category. Other a beautiful but complex structure. In Before accepting any job, Gehry insisted
projects succeeded in only one, two, or fact, only late into the project’s con- that his organization have complete
three dimensions. struction, did its builders learn how to control of the project and that he will
Our findings suggest that all highly produce the orange-shaped roof slices, make all artistic, as well as financial
successful megaprojects knew how to which made its structure so unique. and managerial decisions. Obviously,
integrate all three elements in their Boeing 787 failed to align all elements he set the vision, and at the same time,
management by setting a clear strategic and stakeholders into one coherent created a clear alignment of all parties.
vision, which is communicated to all development machine. When outsourc- Gehry was also aware of the expected
those involved or who may be impacted ing the design and development work difficulties, challenges, and complexi-
by the project; they also made sure that to its network of 700 subcontractors, ties, and he made sure nothing was
all stakeholders are fully aligned with they assumed the work would be done missed. No wonder all his buildings,

December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal  41


The Three Secrets of Megaproject Success
PAPERS

despite their uniqueness and complexi- previous programs; thus, NASA made a many of our projects were in the con-
ties, were completed on time and within commitment it could not meet. In real- struction industry. This may not be
cost. The contrast to the Sydney Opera ity, the program suffered from exten- surprising since, historically, construc-
House is striking: although having a sive delays and numerous breakdowns; tion has been the origin of very large
similar unique vision and inspiring shortcutting the design and committing projects. Other industries, however, may
beauty of design, the Sydney Opera has to immature technologies resulted in play more important roles in the future
miserably failed to meet the project’s a suboptimal design and an extremely of megaprojects.
time and cost goals. It was significantly hazardous vehicle. Lacking all three fac- Finally, this study may open new
lacking in the other two factors: lack of tors needed for megaproject success, its avenues for further research. For exam-
stakeholder alignment and failure to lessons demonstrate how important it ple, we may need to study megaprojects
address all complexities upfront. is to take care of all critical elements: in specific industries or sponsors, as
The second observation involves vision, alignment, and adaptation. well as transformation projects. How
NASA’s Space Shuttle program, which are construction megaprojects differ-
was not included in our sample since it Summary ent from aerospace projects, and how
failed on many fronts; however, its story Since megaprojects will continue to play do government-funded megaprojects
is relevant to our study. The Shuttle was an important role in society, we should compare with privately funded efforts?
late on delivery; it carried a huge finan- learn to do them right. This study has Another area of interest is the further
cial cost and did not fulfill the expected taught us an important and simple les- study of megaproject complexity. As
cost saving in space flights; furthermore, son: the three necessary elements of suc- perhaps the most complex undertaking
it failed to serve the United States’ long- cess should be established as a standard of society, what impact does complexity
term human space flight capabilities. and a “must have” in any project before play in understanding and managing
Once the Shuttle’s was retired, America it starts. The formula for success is rela- them? Yet another topic is the study of
was left for years without human space tively simple: Make sure you have the technology in megaprojects. Perhaps we
flight capability and U.S. astronauts right vision linked to strategy, and com- need to develop specific and dedicated
had to get to space on Russian Soyuz municate it to all involved and impacted management tools for megaprojects.
spacecraft. Finally, after four decades parties; build a totally aligned network of And still, another possibility is search-
of program development and operation stakeholders, and adapt the megaproject ing for other parameters of success,
and two tragic shuttle accidents, which to its specific levels and types of com- which were not detected in this study.
claimed the lives of 14 astronauts, the plexity and challenge. However, while Future studies of megaprojects will take
program’s impact on society is still ques- these elements are simple to understand endless routes, and surely, future gen-
tionable. Based on the findings of our and recognize, in reality they are difficult erations of researchers may continue to
study, it is not surprising to learn that to implement. For a good strategic vision, show us better ways of managing them.
the Shuttle had no clear strategic vision. you need great leaders who understand
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The Three Secrets of Megaproject Success
PAPERS

Williams, T. M. (1999). The need for organization perspective. Industrial and


new paradigms for complex projects. Corporate Change, 5(2), 383–420. Aaron Shenhar is a Professor of Project Management
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Minnesota, USA; Rutgers University, Camden,
Williams, T. (2005). Assessing and development of Mall of America) (Cover
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moving on from the dominant project Story), Retrieved from Building Design &
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management discourse in the light of Construction
Ramat Aviv, Tel Aviv, Israel. He is founder and CEO of
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Engineering Management, 52(4), 497–508. Environmental impact assessments of company, focusing on training and consulting in project
Williamson, O. E. (1981). The economics the Three Gorges Project in China: Issues management, leadership, and strategy. He can be
of organization: The transaction cost and interventions. Earth-Science Reviews, contacted at ashenhar@splwin.com
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548–577. Ye, L., Lu, Y., Su, Z., & Meng, G. (2005). Vered Holzmann is a lecturer in the Faculty of
Williamson, O. E. (1985). The economic Functionalized composite structures Management, Tel-Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, Tel
institutions of capitalism. New York, NY: for new generation airframes: A review. Aviv, Israel, and researches the topics of innovation
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Williamson, O. E. (2008). Outsourcing: 1436–1446. strategy. She manages international projects in the
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legal realism: The law, economics, and University Press. veredhz@post.tau.ac.il

46  December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal


PAPERS The Multivocality of Symbols:
A Longitudinal Study of the Symbolic
Dimensions of the High-Speed Train
Megaproject (1995–2015)
Alfons van Marrewijk, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam,The Netherlands

ABSTRACT ■ INTRODUCTION

M
egaprojects can be perceived as modern symbols of prestige,
Megaprojects can be perceived as mod-
progress, and political power (Altshuler & Luberoff, 2003;
ern symbols, crucial for the encapsulation
Diaz Orueta & Fainstein, 2008; Löfgren, 2015; Pitsis et al.,
of ideas, attitudes, and beliefs. This study
2003; Schwartz, 1990). Löfgren (2015), for example, shows that
explores the exegetical meanings, or mean-
the Øresund Bridge and tunnel was a symbol of creating a transnational
ings derived from local interpretation, that a
region on the Danish–Swedish border. In another example, the Space
megaproject can encapsulate and how those
Shuttle megaproject served as a symbol of the American dream in which
meanings shape the megaproject’s process.
manned space flights represented technological progress in the context of
A longitudinal study of the Dutch High-Speed
the power struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union after
Train megaproject was executed. The find-
World War II (Schwartz, 1990). In the same way, the Sydney Harbor Sewage
ings show three exegetical meanings of the
Tunnel megaproject was an important symbol of the Australian Olympic
megaproject, which were used for strategic
dream, showing that “down under” could organize the 2000 Olympics
goals, leading to power struggles, delays,
(Pitsis et al., 2003). In a final example, the Panama Canal is regarded in
and cost overrun, and finally resulting in a
engineering terms as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, with its
negative symbol of a failed megaproject.
construction being symbolic of America’s power, its control of the region, and
This article contributes to the megaproject
the reach of its navy (Smits & Van Marrewijk, 2012).
literature with an anthropological perspec-
Megaprojects are non-routine temporary endeavors, requiring special
tive on symbolism.
authorization, funding, revenues, and regulatory actions (Davies & Mackenzie,
2014). Furthermore, they are typically controversial, proceeding slowly and
KEYWORDS: megaprojects; symbols;
involving different electoral and business cycles for which public–private
longitudinal; stakeholder
cooperation is needed (Altshuler & Luberoff, 2003). Such projects have com-
plex requirements in terms of the integration of activities and the management
of technology, resources, and equipment, and are characterized by a long time
frame and numerous interfaces among multiple contractors and third parties
(Van Marrewijk et al., 2016). Although traditional conceptions of megaprojects
still dominate much of contemporary project management literature (Cicmil &
Hodgson, 2006), the deviations, failures, and risks of many of these projects in
terms of scope, cost, and time (Flyvbjerg, Bruzelius, & Rothengatter, 2003) have
diverted academic attention away from structural modes and toward issues
of social interaction, sense-making, and culture (Cicmil & Hodgson, 2006;
­Söderlund, 2004).
Megaprojects are here considered to be cultural phenomena (Kendra
& Taplin, 2004). Drawing from anthropological literature (Alvesson, 2002;
Smircich, 1983), project culture is perceived as a social construction that
results from people ascribing meaning to their situation (Cicmil & Gaggiottia,
Project Management Journal, Vol. 48, No. 6, 47–59 2014). Consequently, megaproject organizations are understood not to have
© 2017 by the Project Management Institute a culture but as a culture (Van Marrewijk, 2015). Given the unique features
Published online at www.pmi.org/PMJ of megaprojects as temporary, ephemeral, or disposable organizations

December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal  47


The Multivocality of Symbols
PAPERS

(Bakker, DeFillipi, & Sydow, 2016), mega- execution of megaprojects (Flyvbjerg, organizations attach to the HST, and
projects make up a temporary cultural 2014). The multivocality of symbolic (2) how have these meanings shaped
framework, which is then reproduced interpretations by clients, agents, pub- the megaproject’s process? Data on this
through processes of interaction dur- lic and private stakeholders, citizens, case have been collected at three inter-
ing the project phases (Van Marrewijk, and politicians can create serious chal- vals during a longitudinal study, which
2007). Project cultures should be stud- lenges for a megaproject’s execution. was carried out under supervision of the
ied in terms of their history, develop- For example, in the Panama Canal author between 2003 and 2015, using
ment, context, and environment (Cicmil Expansion Project (PCEP), the Panama- participant observation, interviews, and
& Gaggiottia, 2014; Scranton, 2015; nian government understood the Canal desk research, which allowed for an in-
Söderlund & Lenfle, 2013). Zone to be symbol of national inde- depth contextual and historical analy-
Symbols are present everywhere in pendency, whereas the United States– sis. The findings show three exegetical
project cultures as they shape organi- based contractor perceived the Canal meanings of the HST megaproject: as a
zational life (Alvesson & Berg, 1992; Zone as a symbol of former American radical innovative contract, as an inter-
Gagliardi, 1990; Nauta, 1991; Rafaeli presence, which caused serious power vention in the Dutch rail sector, and as
& Pratt, 2006). For example, corporate struggles (Van Marrewijk et  al., 2016). a lynchpin of rail transport business.
flags, work clothing, office spaces, and Exegetical meanings can thus shape These positive interpretations were used
equipment can be vehicles for symbolic social, cultural, and political situations by the public organizations for the legit-
meaning. Geertz (1973) uses the con- and processes. Insight into the nature imation of their own goals and interests;
cept of symbol to denote any object, act, of exegetical meaning provides a bet- they were not stable but changed over
event, quality, or relationship that con- ter understanding of the problematic time into a negative symbol of a failed
tains a conception—namely, the sym- evolvement of megaprojects. megaproject. This article contributes to
bol’s meaning. He states that symbols The goal of this article is to under- megaproject literature with an anthro-
are “tangible formulations of notions, stand which exegetical meanings pological perspective on symbolism.
abstractions from experience fixed in a megaproject can encapsulate for Although symbolism plays an impor-
perceptible forms, concrete embodi- involved stakeholders and how those tant role in shaping organizational life
ments of ideas, attitudes, judgments, meanings shape the megaproject’s pro- (Alvesson & Berg, 1992; Gagliardi, 1990;
longing, or beliefs” (Geertz, 1973, p. 91). cess. The exegetical meanings of the Rafaeli & Pratt, 2006), it has not been
Following this line of thinking, and as public organizations—the Ministry fully addressed in megaproject studies.
I have argued above, megaprojects can of Infrastructure and Environment, Therefore, this article engages organi-
be understood as modern symbols of Rijkswaterstaat, ProRail, and Dutch zational and anthropological theory on
prestige, progress, and political power. Railways—all involved in the Dutch symbols to provide insight into the sym-
An important property of organi- High-Speed Train (abbreviated as bolic understanding of megaprojects.
zational symbols is their capacity for HST) megaproject, will be discussed. The structure of the article is as
communicating meaning (Alvesson This €7.3 billion project was started follows. First, I discuss the theoretical
& Berg, 1992; Firth, 1973). Even when in 1995 to connect the Netherlands to roots of symbols and examine how
people share the same cultural context, the European network of high-speed they translate to organization and proj-
they can have various social interpre- trains. Although the rail infrastructure ect studies. Second, the methodology
tations of a symbol, which makes the was already completed in 2009, it never section explicates how the data were
receiver important (Firth, 1973). Firth came into operation; it never ran any collected through a longitudinal quali-
(1973) calls the distinct interpretation high-speed trains. The HST is a good tative study. Then, the findings section
of a complex profound representation example of an infrastructure megapro- shows the distinct exegetical meanings
by receivers “multivocality.” Similarly, ject that set out to provide a new type of the HST and how these interpreta-
Turner (1967, 1973) calls the meaning of urban space, in the same way as tions influenced the megaproject’s pro-
derived from local interpretation “exe- a new road (Harvey & Knox, 2015), a cess. The discussion section argues that
getical meaning.” A meaning can domi- canal (Smits & Van Marrewijk, 2012), the involved public organizations used
nate other meanings and by so doing an airport (Dewey & Davis, 2013), a the symbolic representations of the
block different explanations, creating bridge (Löfgren, 2015), a railway line HST megaproject for their own strategic
discrepancies and contradictions in (Corvellec, 2001), or a subway infra- agenda. Finally, the article concludes
meaning (Turner, 1967). This is the case structure (Van den Ende, Van Marrewijk, with the observation that organizational
with the symbolic interpretation of a red & Boersma, 2015). theories on symbols are valuable for a
flag for “danger” or for “communism.” Central to this article are the two better understanding of the symbolic
Exegetical meaning is an important con- research questions: (1) Which exe- meaning and interpretations of infra-
cept in understanding the problematic getical meanings do the four public structure megaprojects.

48  December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal


Infrastructure Megaprojects of cultural determination (Firth, 1973). then became a symbol of a price barrier,
as Symbols Cultural determinism is the belief that bureaucratic barrier, and cultural bar-
Academic studies on organizational a symbol determines our interpretation rier that blocked regional development.
symbols draw heavily upon anthropo- of it. Therefore, Firth (1973) criticizes Finally, the bridge became a symbol of
logical theories on culture and sym- Turner’s (1967) use of the concept of economic opportunism for Danes and
bolism (Alvesson & Berg, 1992; Firth, “dominant” symbols, where one mean- Swedes who wanted to compare prices
1973; Rafaeli & Pratt, 2006; Turner, ing can dominate other meanings and in shopping malls. Löfgren (2015) con-
1967, 1973). As early as the 1930s, by so doing block different explana- cludes that the meaning of the bridge
anthropologist Malinowski (1939) stud- tions. Firth (1973) states that too great has changed continually during its short
ied the formation of symbols in relation a uniformity is assumed in the reaction history. In another example, the Pan-
to the origins and formation of cul- of people to symbols and therefore he ama Canal, once a symbol of America’s
ture. He traced the origins of the forma- declines the idea of dominant symbols. power, regional control, and two-ocean
tion of symbols to the very beginning Without denying the existence of domi- navy, has now become a symbol of eco-
of culture, rooted in the human need nant symbols, I would like to focus our nomic growth for Panama and of status
to cope with the gap between superfi- attention instead on the complexity and for the private firms involved (Smits &
cial statements of action and underly- context of the link between symbols and Van Marrewijk, 2012).
ing meaning. Others (e.g., Firth, 1973; their interpretations (Rafaeli & Pratt, Another characteristic of symbols is
Geertz, 1973; Nauta, 1991; Tennekens, 2006; Tennekens, 1982). For example, a their capacity for control; they can be
1982), too, understood symbolic repre- red flag that might be used to indicate manipulated in order to justify social
sentation to be an essential function of a hole in the road becomes a politi- order and power relations (Firth, 1973;
human consciousness and fundamen- cal symbol of freedom when used on Turner, 1967). Consequently, symbols
tal to coordinated action, standardize Parisian barricades in the 1960s or a can be used strategically in mega­
techniques, and provide rules for our symbol of totalitarianism when used in projects for decision-making processes
understanding of religion, technology, a North Korean military parade. Sym- (Brown, 1994), for enacting transitions
art, language, and science. An example bols, thus, allow for flexibility in indi- during a project life cycle (Van den Ende
of symbolic representation is the John vidual handling and interpretation. & Van Marrewijk, 2014), for the legiti-
Frum cargo cult movement just after An important characteristic of sym- mation of power (Brown, 1994), and
the end of World War II. John Frum bols is that they are connected to their for power struggles among stakehold-
is often depicted as an American ser- referents in cultural systems (Firth, ers (Clegg & Kreiner, 2013), to name a
viceman who would bring wealth and 1973). Turner (1967) calls this the posi- few examples. In this way, symbols can
prosperity to inhabitants of the island tional meaning of symbols. Culture is become powerful.
of Vanuatu if they followed him and then seen as complex of symbols, which In summary, this theoretical debate
built fake airstrips and airplanes to sym- have an intrinsic double aspect: They helps us understand megaprojects as
bolically encourage American military are a model both of reality and for reality symbols that capture meaning, which
planes to land with their cargoes of sup- (Geertz, 1973). First, when we use a sym- can be multivocal, can change over time,
plies (Worsley, 1957). The activities of bol as a model of reality, we are trying to and can be strategic in power struggles.
these cargo cult participants are no less bring a symbolic structure close to real- This understanding focuses on mega-
real to them than they are for us when ity, such as the luxury car that symbolizes projects as social and cultural networks
using our transport infrastructure. In the wealth of the owner. Second, using a of people involved in the processes
this way, meaning is captured or stored symbol as a model for reality helps us of organizing and meaning-­ making
in symbols and support the way one to understand how relationships should (Bresnen, Goussevskaia, & Swan, 2005).
ought to behave in a group (Geertz, be organized, such as design plans for
1973). For an excellent overview of the a bridge or tunnel. Turner (1967, 1973) Methodology
long history of research on symbols, see calls this the positional meaning of a The data set used to answer the research
Firth (1973). Geertz (1973) states that symbol, understood from its relationship questions in this paper was collected
symbols can have the power to connect to other symbols in a patterned totality. using longitudinal ethnographic field
facts, such as a cross and its representa- The meaning of a symbol is not stable research (Pettigrew, 1990). Such an
tion of Christianity at a fundamental but can change over time. For example, approach describes, interprets, and
level. Geertz (1973) calls this “synthesiz- Löfgren’s study (2015) of the symbolic explains behavior, meaning, and cul-
ing symbols” (p. 127). However, a basic interpretation of the Øresund Bridge and tural products through direct data col-
problem in the study of symbols is the tunnel that connect Denmark to Sweden lected by researchers who are physically
relationship between the symbol and its shows that the bridge was first a symbol present in the organization or other
representation, as this contains the risk of economic prosperity and growth and setting of study over a long period

December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal  49


The Multivocality of Symbols
PAPERS

with relevant stakeholders in the pub-


Instruments Period I Period II Period III
lic organizations involved. During the
Research period 2003–2005 2007–2008 2014–2015
third period (2014–2015), three inter-
Project HST HST HST views were held with former HST man-
Role Research leader Consultant/researcher Researcher agers, and reports and parliamentary
Interviews 85 10 3 enquiries were studied. Important data
came from three parliamentary enqui-
Participant observation 150 days 15 days —
ries related to the HST megaproject:
Sources used Reports, internal HST intranet, internal Parliamentary enquiry the enquiry of the HST tender process
documents, intranet documents, newspapers report, newspapers
( Su r ve y - Co m m i tte e - Co n st r u c t i o n ,
Table 1: Research instruments used in the three periods of study. 2002), of the decision-making pro-
cess used (Commission-Duijvensteijn,
2004), and of the tendering of the high-
of time (Barley, 1990). The aim is to research. During this period, 85 inter- speed trains called Fyra (Parliamentary
provide an interpretative understand- views were held with employees of the Commission, 2015).
ing to come to a “verstehen” of the four public organizations involved: the
constructed social reality (Yanow & Ministry of Infrastructure and Envi- Analyzing the Data
Schwartz-Shea, 2006). The term verste- ronment (abbreviated here as Ministry An initial exploration of the data set
hen refers to understanding the mean- of I&E); Rijkswaterstaat, which man- resulted in a time table and in the find-
ing of action from the actor’s point of ages road and water infrastructure; ing that the HST was initially a sym-
view (Czarniawska, 1992). ProRail, which is responsible for rail bol of European integration. Turner’s
The research group in this study infrastructure; and the passenger rail (1967, 1973) exegetical meaning of a
consists of HST employees of four operator Dutch Railways. symbol was then used for analysis of
public stakeholder organizations who During that two-year period, a the data set. The author went back to
were stud­ied in three different periods team of four employees of the proj- the data and reread all the interviews,
between 2003 and 2015 (see Table 1 for ect’s knowledge management depart- reports, and newspaper articles in order
an overview of the research periods). ment, supervised by the author, asked to address the different exegetical mean-
Conducting longitudinal ethnographic the interviewees questions on topics ings. From this reading, three exegeti-
fieldwork is not an easy task. Academ­ regarding project goals, design, and cal meanings appeared: the HST as
ics often have limited time for research culture. All interviews were conducted (1) a radical innovative contract, (2) an
and gaining the access necessary for by two researchers—one taking notes intervention in the Dutch rail sector,
such research can be difficult. There- and the other doing the interview, and (3) a lynchpin in the rail transport
fore, other stakeholders, such as poten- which is called researcher triangulation business. Then the analysis centered
tial users, local governments, and (Yanow & Schwartz-Shea, 2006). Inter- on how employees of the four public
construction firms, were not included in views were held in Dutch and typically organizations used the megaproject’s
the study. To partly overcome this limi- lasted between one and a half and two symbolic meaning for their own reasons,
tation, a document analysis of newspa- and a half hours. All interviews were also called “sublimes” (Flyvbjerg, 2014),
per articles on the HST in two leading transcribed directly after they had taken to participate in the megaproject. This
Dutch newspapers (De Volkskrant and place. Participant observation was car- resulted in the understanding that the
NRC Handelsblad) has been included ried out for 18 months during three days HST was being interpreted symbolically
in the study. a week at the project’s headquarters, the and used strategically for individual
regional offices, and the offices of the and organizational goals. Finally, the
Data Collection stakeholders. Finally, data triangulation positional meaning (Turner, 1967) was
The most important period of data was applied in terms of the sources con- analyzed to understand how the HST is
collection was from 2003 to 2005 dur- sulted, including interviews, biographi- related to the overall pattern of mega-
ing the construction of the HST line. cal interviews, observations, websites, projects as symbols.
Data, methods, and researchers were public reports, management reports,
triangulated to improve the reliability internal reports, and public hearings. The HST Megaproject:
of the research (Yanow & Schwartz- During the second period (2007– Four Sublimes
Shea, 2006). The methodological tri- 2008), the author was involved as a The HST megaproject was a symbol of
angulation used included biographical consultant in the transfer of the new European integration in the 1990s to
interviews, observation, participant rail networks to the operator ProRail. be achieved by connecting Amsterdam
observation, group interviews, and desk In this period, 10 interviews were held to the European capitals of Brussels,

50  December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal


Paris, Berlin, and London with high- The goal of the HST megapro- In the HST megaproject, ProRail was
speed trains. The HST encompassed the ject was to establish a line between responsible for the initiation, decision-
optimistic dream of integrating Europe Amsterdam and Paris on which high- making, and operating phases. Another
into one political-economic commu- speed trains could travel at a maximum department of the Ministry of I&E,
nity where people could travel freely in speed of 300 kilometers per hour to Rijkswaterstaat—normally responsible
high-speed trains without border con- shorten travel time and give people an for the design, construction, manage-
trols. The ambition of the Dutch gov- alternative to car and air traffic, while ment, and maintenance of road and
ernment was to connect Amsterdam to also strengthening the economic posi- water infrastructure—was now in
the European network of high-speed tioning of the Netherlands (Dutch- charge of realizing the HST.
trains with a southern line to Paris, an Auditing-Institute, 2014). The Ministry The findings of the study show that
eastern line to Berlin, and a northern of I&E initiated the megaproject and the HST megaproject was attractive to
line to Hamburg. These last two lines controlled its budget. The company the four abovementioned public organi-
failed to obtain parliamentary approval Dutch Railways was privatized in 1995, zations for four reasons, corresponding
(see Table 2 for a short overview of with the Dutch government being the to what Flyvbjerg (2014) called the four
the HST megaproject history). Only the sole shareholder, while the infrastruc- “sublimes.” First is the technological
construction of the 125-kilometer line to ture manager ProRail, as a department sublime, as project engineers of ProRail
the Belgium border, which was budgeted of the Ministry of I&E was responsible and Rijkswaterstaat love designing and
in 1995 at €3.4 billion, was approved. for the maintenance of the rail network. constructing complex ­ i nfrastructure

Events Date
Establishment of HST think tank 1973
Political discussions on connection to European HST network 1979
Agreement on HST network among the Netherlands, Belgium, France, and Germany 1989
Termination of HST North project 1989
Preparations for HST East and South August 1991
Plan for the HST line made public in governmental decision 1994
Final decision on HST trace made by government 1998
Tender for infrastructure of HST South 1999
Start of construction phase May 1999
Termination of HST East project 2001
Dutch Railways win public tender for franchising the HST line 2001
Parliamentary enquiry on tendering of HST 2003
Dutch Railways sign contract with AnsaldoBreda for Fyra trains January 2004
Delivery of rail foundation, bridges, and tunnels 2005
Delivery of rail infrastructure, and problems with security system software 2006
Opening of tunnel June 2008
Final delivery of rail infrastructure five years later than initial projections January 2009
Start of operations December 2009
Ministry saves Dutch Railways with a reduction on concession costs August 2009
Parliamentary enquiry on construction of HST April 2010
Renegotiations between the government and Dutch Railways over cost of concession December 2011
Start of Fyra high-speed train, five years later than planned July 2012
Problematic startup of Fyra trains and breakdown of trains in winter weather January 2013
Definitive stop to Fyra production June 2013
Parliamentary enquiry on the HST March 2015
Table 2: Timeline of events in the HST megaproject.

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The Multivocality of Symbols
PAPERS

works, which is central to their pro- to improve its transport infrastructure, Y-shaped pillars, which strengthen the
fessional identity (Florman, 1996). which the construction industry, with image of the slim but strong bridge.
The HST mega­project was one of the its collusive practices during that period The aesthetics of the bridge are ampli-
largest infrastructure projects in the (Van den Heuvel, 2005), was eager to fied by the illumination of the pillars
­Netherlands. A great number of com- fulfill. The HST megaproject was the in the dark, with lights reflecting in the
plex technological problems, so typical first public–private partnership (PPP) in water. Another iconic element is the
of megaprojects (Van Marrewijk, 2015), the Dutch rail sector, and a project man- longest rail viaduct in Europe, which
had to be solved during this project. To agement organization was recruiting runs for an impressive six kilometers
give a few examples, these problems consultants for design and supervision, at a height of six meters. Finally, the
included digging tunnels in unstable hiring contractors, and supervising and preservation of an iconic polder land-
clay, building bridges over wide rivers initiating operations. scape was one of the aesthetic sublimes
with changing sand banks, and tak- The HST megaproject was split into of the m ­ egaproject. The project was
ing the new rail line through densely three parts (Dutch-Auditing-Institute, debated at length in the Dutch parlia-
populated urban areas. The engineers 2014). The first part was the foundation ment and in the press, as the typical
of ProRail and Rijkswaterstaat hoped of the rail network, consisting of the polder landscape was directly affected
and expected that the HST rail would construction of tunnels, bridges, and by the new rail line. After conducting
stand as future testimony to techno- dikes. This work was divided into seven environmental impact, feasibility, and
logical achievements in the same way contracts: five PPP contracts for the safety studies, and identifying alterna-
that the transoceanic highway between foundation, tunnels, and bridges; one tives, the Dutch parliament decided to
Peru and Brazil did for road engineers for a seven-kilometer tunnel; and one drill a seven-kilometer tunnel to protect
(Harvey & Knox, 2015) and the Panama to connect the HST to the existing rail the polder landscape.
Canal did for its constructors (Smits & network. Each contract was given to a These four sublimes were the driv-
Van Marrewijk, 2012). separate construction consortium. The ers for the four public organizations
Second is the political sublime second part was the rail infrastructure, to participate in the HST megaproject.
(Flyvbjerg, 2014), in which the Ministry consisting of the rails, communication I now focus upon how the various sub-
of I&E manifests optimism in terms of system, security system, and signaling limes are dealt with by symbolic repre-
the ideal of European unification. They system. This was financed and con- sentations from various stakeholders.
want to connect the Netherlands to the structed by a market consortium con-
European network of high-speed trains sisting of investors, international banks, HST as Symbol: The
and wish to deregulate the Dutch rail and private companies. The govern- Multivocality of Meanings
sector, in line with European regula- ment pays the consortium a yearly fee From the findings, three local interpre-
tions. Another goal, not mentioned in to maintain and keep the HST rail run- tations of the HST were found: (1) HST
the project plans but stated by inter- ning with an availability rate of 99.46% as a radical innovative contract, (2) HST
viewees, was to liberalize the Dutch rail until 2031 (Parliamentary-Commission, as an intervention in the Dutch rail
sector by opening up the Dutch rail net- 2015). The third part was the transport sector, and (3) HST as a lynchpin of the
work to foreign competition. This anti- franchise, which gave High-Speed Alli- rail transport business. These interpre-
monopolistic thinking dominated the ance (HSA) the exclusive right to deliver tations were not fixed and stable, but
European political agenda in the 1990s train services. Because Dutch Railways rather have changed over time, with
(Parliamentary-Commission, 2015). own 95% of HSA, I have used the name some symbols becoming more domi-
Consequently, the Dutch government Dutch Railways in this article. This nant than others in certain periods.
wanted to use innovative contracting of splitting into three separate parts was Below the local interpretations will be
public–private partnership in the HST intended to speed up the realization of discussed.
construction. Rijkswaterstaat used this the HST megaproject and to make pos-
to acquire more influence in the man- sible the public tendering of the conces- HST as a Radical Innovative Contract
agement of infrastructure megaprojects sion and the private financing of the rail The first exegetical meaning of the HST
in the Netherlands. infrastructure. megaproject is that it is an opportunity
The third is the economic sublime The fourth sublime is the aesthetic for introducing PPP as an innovative
(Flyvbjerg, 2014), in which Dutch Rail- (Flyvbjerg, 2014), which is found in form of contracting. In the 1990s, the
ways perceived the HST line to be the the design of iconic landscape ele- Ministry of I&E was heavily influenced
lynchpin in their strategic positioning ments in the HST project, such as a by the philosophy of new public man-
as an international high-speed opera- large bridge, a viaduct, and a tunnel. agement, which advocated reducing
tor. Here, the Ministry of I&E saw the The iconic new bridge of two kilome- the responsibilities of the public sector
Netherlands as a country that wanted ters over the river Hollands Diep has on the basis that market organizations

52  December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal


could do such tasks cheaper and bet- Leiden, and Utrecht. The solution pro- Slowly, the HST turned into a symbol
ter than public-sector organizations posed was to tunnel under this land- of failed public–private contracting.
(Gruening, 2001). Therefore, the Min- scape, at a projected cost of €380 million, Some blamed the contractors for this:
istry of I&E tendered the HST megapro- not to ruin the aesthetic beauty of the
ject as an innovative PPP: “We decided region. Two tunnels were proposed in “I think it is because the contractors
to prepare for a public tendering of the tender document, but one consor- did not see how they could earn more
the concession and the construction tium calculated, and later proved, that money with opportunities and optimiza-
tions. I had expected this to be totally
of the rail infrastructure” (Interview one wide tunnel with two tubes would
different. In hindsight, I think that our
with employee of the Ministry of I&E, be more cost-effective. This was widely
expectations were colored by earlier expe-
November 2003). Here, the HST as a rad- perceived to be a success: riences in the Oosterschelde megaproject
ical, innovative PPP is seen as a model [innovative construction of sea dike], but
for reality (Geertz, 1973), designed to “The tunnel is a good example of how an
that is water; people are more innova-
change the Dutch construction sector, innovative contract can result in major
tive there.” (Interview with former HST
savings. This, of course, depends on the
thereby contributing to the economic director, December 2003)
space a contract gives to realizing such
and political sublime. The HST mega-
an innovative concept and to what extent
project symbolized something much Others stated that there was little
the contractor has an interest in innova-
larger than “just” a megaproject; rather, tion. A contractor only innovates if he can room for the contractors to design their
the Ministry of I&E understands the improve his market position.” (Interview solutions: “HST was a logistical process
HST as a revolutionary change in with HST manager, November 2003) to make rail production, with little room
project management practices: “With for innovation,” said one HST employee.
this project, we will show how the con- Notwithstanding this positive exam- Some interviewees also reflected upon
struction industry and the Ministry of ple, over time the symbolic representa- the complexity that had been intro-
I&E will work within the next 10 years” tion of HST as innovative contracting duced by dividing the HST into three
(Interview with former HST director, changed, as the tender procedures of all parts, thereby creating organizational
November 2003). other contracts in the megaproject failed boundaries that had to be spanned:
With this in mind, Rijkswaterstaat and, when finally brought into execu-
recruited enthusiastic, flexible, and tion, underperformed (Commission-­ “Our model worsened the problems as
innovative pioneers for the project man- Duijvensteijn, 2004). The failed tender nobody really felt responsible for the
agement organization—people with procedures in the megaproject triggered boundaries; all seemed to perceive the
project in terms of their own respon-
alternative mind-sets, who could deal a parliamentary enquiry on “Irregulari-
sibilities with little integral thinking.”
with ambiguity and chaos and were ties in the Dutch Construction Indus-
(Interview with HST manager, November
able to develop new ideas: “There was try” (Survey-Committee-­Construction, 2003)
a constant change, and everything was 2002), which uncovered what later
overthrown. One has to be able to stand became known as the Dutch con- The failed contracting of the HST
that. I needed people who were flex- struction fraud scandal (Commission-­ stimulated the development of knowl-
ible” (Interview with former HST direc- Duijvensteijn, 2004; Sminia, 2011; edge of how to manage PPP megaproj-
tor, January 2004). These employees, Survey-Committee-­Construction, 2002). ects in a Dutch context. According to
who strongly identified themselves The enquiry found many cases of ille- respondents, many megaprojects initi-
with the HST as a radical, innovative gal practices involving collusion and ated after 2005—for example, the Hanze
project, were known by interviewees fraud. The report confirmed that the rail line, the Delft rail tunnel, and the
as “Gideon’s gang.” Gideon’s gang is a “entire sector was involved in fraud and North–South metro line in ­Amsterdam—
biblical metaphor for a small group that other illegal practices” and that “man- have benefited and learned from the
opposes a very large group, but knows agement knew about it and authori- knowledge developed in the HST mega-
no fear and uses creative, innovative ties helped to perpetuate the system” project and the Betuwe route (a  freight
methods to reach its goals. (Van den ­Heuvel, 2005, p. 134). Many train line from ­Rotterdam to G
­ ermany).
Rijkswaterstaat used the symbolic Dutch construction firms were given One respondent talking about the
representation of the HST to show large fines, and managers were even Hanze project indicated:
the success of innovative contracting, imprisoned. It took public and private
and especially how it could prevent partners more than 10 years of rees- “We have cleverly chosen the contract
the visual pollution of a high-speed tablishing boundaries and negotiating boundaries based upon the experiences
rail line cutting through the protected competences in order to develop new of the HST and Betuweroute.” (Interview
area of typical Dutch polder landscape collaborative practices (Veenswijk, with project employee of the Hanze line,
that encircles the cities of Amsterdam, Marrewijk, & Boersma, 2010). 2012).

December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal  53


The Multivocality of Symbols
PAPERS

Others have learned to keep mega- which were one organization until 2004, 27 November 2003). Not surprisingly,
projects out of the political domain were very afraid that the line would the cooperation agreement did not work
because, in the case of the HST, national be operated by one of their powerful out well:
politics heavily influenced the execu- competitors, such as the Deutsche Bahn
“There wasn’t a cooperative attitude
tion. One respondent said: or the French SNCF. For ProRail, the
(­Interview with manager from the Min-
HST would be the largest rail construc-
“It was important to keep the Hanze line istry of I&E, September 2003); “There
tion project ever, while Dutch Railways
under the radar in order to prevent it from was a strong identification of employ-
wanted to exploit the HST line to prevent ees with the project. Consequently, they
becoming a political project. Therefore, it
competition, particularly from interna- [­
Rijkswaterstaat] were not open and
remained a ‘normal’ megaproject in the
tional operators. Therefore, in the early developed an attitude that put others off.
shadow of HST.” (Interview with Hanze
line employee, 2012) stages of the project, Dutch Railways They went their own way.” (Interview with
tried to prevent the public tendering of ProRail manager, December 2003)
Furthermore, the symbol of innova- the HST rail line (Parliamentary-Com-
mission, 2015). In doing this, Dutch ProRail argued that it had 100 years
tive contracting stimulated the in­volved
Railways “searched for the borders of of experience in rail construction and
public organizations to improve the
the unseemly and even sometimes that it was formally responsible for the
training of public managers. This
crossed these” (Duursma & Verlaan, construction and maintenance of rail
re­sulted in the creation of distinct
2015, p. 4). Because Dutch Railways infrastructure in the Netherlands. Pro-
knowledge platforms. Here, project
was unable to stop the public tender- Rail preferred to opt for a matrix model
managers working in the public domain
ing from going ahead, it saw no option in which it would have greater author-
are trained in negotiation, management
other than to make an offer the govern- ity; it wanted to design infrastructure
skills, how to deal with ambiguity and
ment could not refuse—twice as high as and manage a part of the project itself:
social complexity, and how to obtain
knowledge about innovative tendering the bids of the competitors. However, all “Our proposition was to give certain parts
and contracting. Both project manag- interviewees said that they immediately of the project to the different partners, and
ers and the Dutch parliament realized, knew that the offer and expected turn- that these partners would be accountable
after three parliamentary enquiries, that over were unrealistic. to the project management.” (Interview
their capacity to really understand and Both Rijkswaterstaat and the Minis- with ProRail manager, January 2004)
critically question the decision making try of I&E used the symbolic representa-
tion of the HST to exclude ProRail from Rijkwaterstaat and ProRail could not
and execution of megaprojects was too
the management of the project organiza- agree on how the activities should be
limited. One of the key players from
tion because they thought ProRail could organized, and ProRail was left with little
the Ministry of I&E stated: “Innovative
not manage the innovative contracts and or no authority in the project organization:
contracting is gorgeous, but we first
should have learned to play the game on was actually part of the problem: “We were lonely wolves in the wilderness.
a much smaller scale. Now it almost fell There was only one person with rail knowl-
“I had to remove ProRail from the project.
apart.” (Interview with Rijkswaterstaat edge, and that was me.” (Interview with
ProRail was too much connected to the
manager, February 2004) Dutch Railways, and that power had to be
former ProRail manager, November 2003)
This resulted in extra research capac- broken because we wanted to bring the
ity in the Dutch parliament to support Conflicts over project control had
concession to the market.” (Interview with
politicians in their decision-making arisen earlier between ProRail and
former project director, November 2003)
processes and, thus, in the functioning Rijkswaterstaat, which is why detailed
of democracy. This was an unforeseen This quote emphasizes how the protocols for responsibilities, roles,
outcome of the HST megaproject. HST was regarded as a means of break- and cooperation were designed for
ing the power of Dutch Railways. The joint projects. In the HST megaproject,
HST as an Intervention in the Dutch power struggle was symbolized in a Rijkswaterstaat signed a cooperation
Rail Sector cartoon depicting Rijkswaterstaat as agreement with ProRail, as expertise on
The second exegetical meaning found the national figure of Hansje Brinker, constructing such a complex megapro-
is the HST as an intervention to change who used his finger to stop a hole in ject was needed:
the rail sector. Both the Ministry of I&E the dike to prevent the Netherlands
“Given the size of the project, the complex-
and Rijkswaterstaat perceived the HST from being flooded, now stirring a large ity and the challenges for the organiza-
to be an excellent opportunity to break pan of soup with his finger, indicat- tion of construction work and innovative
the monopolistic position of both Pro- ing Rijkswaterstaat’s wish to influence technologies, it is necessary to use all the
Rail and Dutch Railways in the Dutch large rail infrastructure megaproj- available knowledge.” (Internal document;
rail sector. Dutch Railways and ProRail, University magazine Ad Valvas,
ects (­ cooperation agreement, 2000).

54  December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal


This painful exclusion of ProRail went back to the contract and renegoti- up to 140 kilometers per hour and the
from the construction phase of the HST ated a much lower compensation for the French high-speed train. The Parlia-
project was risky for the Ministry of I&E HST transport concession, sometimes mentary Commission investigating the
as ProRail would, after completion, be forgetting to explicitly inform the Dutch failure of the Fyra stated that it had
responsible for maintenance of the HST. parliament (Duursma & Verlaan, 2015). been a disaster for Dutch train travelers
There was a risk that ProRail would Still, in 2007, Dutch Railways forecasted (­Parliamentary Commission, 2015).
blame Rijkswaterstaat for bad rail con- that it would be transporting 22 mil- Over time, the symbol of the HST
struction. Indeed, in October 2015, the lion passengers in 2010, around 16 mil- as a lynchpin changed into the HST
findings of a technical study, commis- lion of whom would be national and as a failing megaproject. This has to
sioned by ProRail, indicated that some of 6 million international (AD newspaper, do directly with cost overruns and dis-
the concrete used in the HST project was November 2007). Even in 2009, Dutch appointing incomes. The income for
of very poor quality. Respondents from Railways was still optimistic about com- the Dutch government declined as the
ProRail criticized the R ­ ijkswaterstaat pleting the high-speed train connection: expected revenues from Dutch Railways
approach of the HST project: was first calculated to be €2 billion over
“It is spring 2029. I’m with my grandson on a period of 15 years, but was lowered to
“We were not constructing a rail line, but the Eurostar that is transporting us non-
€1.8 billion for a period of 18 years, and
dikes and tunnels. There was a domi- stop from Amsterdam to London. That
this dropped, after negotiations in 2011,
nant focus on the environment with many is possible nowadays. Finally, he experi-
to €1.1 billion (Duursma & Verlaan,
adaptations, and that is why [the rail] ences what it is like to travel at a speed of
300 km/h on the HST. (Director of the HST 2015). Furthermore, Dutch Railways, in
seems to be a roller coaster. There is only
program in HSL Highlights, no. 18, 2009) which the state is sole shareholder, had
one good rail line and that is a straight line.
(Interview with former ProRail manager,
lost €772 million on the Fyra debacle by
November 2003) By using the symbol of HST as a June 2015 (Parliamentary Commission,
lynchpin of the rail transport business, 2015). Normally, the Dutch government
If no action is taken to improve or Dutch Railways was able to continue receives 35% of Dutch Railways’ profit
replace the concrete, this will result in developing the new high-speed train. each year in the form of a dividend.
the technical life span of the project Because it had an unprofitable business Since 2013, no dividend has been paid.
being reduced from 100 years to only model, Dutch Railways tendered for a Finally, the three parliamentary enqui-
between 20 and 40 years (Gompel, 2015). low-cost, high-speed train in a process ries and the new problems with the rail
in which the Italian firm AnsaldoBreda construction brought and will continue
HST as a Lynchpin of the Rail was the only one left to make a final to bring extra costs.
Transport Business bid (Duursma & Verlaan, 2015). It took The failure to deliver a function-
The third exegetical meaning is the HST AnsaldoBreda a long time to design ing high-speed train service can be
as an opportunity for strategic position- the train, and after five years of delay, measured in terms of time delays (five
ing. Dutch Railways interpreted the HST the first high-speed trains, named Fyra, years) and budget overrun. The costs
to be a rail line that is a lynchpin of the were delivered. The word Fyra is the of the HST increased from €3.4 billion
rail transport business. Dutch Railways number four in Swedish and signifies in 1995 to €7.3 billion in 2013 (Dutch-
wanted to become an important player the connection of the four HST cit- Auditing-Institute, 2014). The projected
in the European transportation sector ies: Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Antwerp, cost of maintaining and keeping the
and the connection to the European and Brussels (Dutch-Auditing-Institute, line in use has risen from an initial
network of high-speed trains was some- 2014). Furthermore, the term Fyra has figure of €3.1 billion to €3.6 billion over
thing it had to have at all costs. echoes of the Dutch word fier, which sig- the period from 2009 to 2031 (Dutch-
Dutch Railways used the symbolic nifies self-confidence and pride. Unfor- Auditing-Institute, 2014). The failure
representation in its struggle against the tunately, the trains had many technical also triggered frustration among rail
liberalization of the Dutch rail network. defects and proved to be unsuitable passengers, and caused civil unrest over
It presented the HST as the most impor- for the Dutch winter weather, which the failure of megaprojects. The Parlia-
tant line in its rail network, and won the resulted in daily headlines in the Dutch mentary Commission (2015) concluded
tender process for the line concession media criticizing the Fyra. After a fierce that the expectations created by the
on the basis of an unrealistic business struggle between AnsaldoBreda and HST megaproject in Dutch society were
case. Consequently, Dutch Railways Dutch Railways, the trains were sent too high:
nearly went bankrupt at three different back and the rest of the order was can-
points of time: 2003, 2008, and 2010 celed, which meant there were then “The initial expected transport on the HST
(The Parliamentary Commission, 2015, no high-speed trains. The line is now line has not been reached, because other
p. 4). Each time, the Dutch government used only for regular trains with speeds interests have repeatedly prevailed over

December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal  55


The Multivocality of Symbols
PAPERS

provided managers of the four involved


Period Dominant Exegetical Meaning Organizations
public organizations with opportuni-
1973–1998 European integration Ministry ties to use these meanings for strate-
1999–2003 Radical, innovative form of contracting Ministry, RWS gic purposes. The exegetical meanings
Instrument to change the rail sector Ministry became strategic instruments for the
2003–2008 Instrument to change the rail sector Ministry legitimation of positions and as an
arena for power struggle, so typical in
Opportunity for strategic positioning Dutch Railways, ProRail
megaprojects (Clegg & Kreiner, 2013).
2008–2013 Instrument to change the rail sector Ministry The strategic use of symbols in organi-
Opportunity for strategic positioning Dutch Railways, ProRail zations has been noted in earlier orga-
2013–2015 Failed megaproject Ministry, ProRail nizational studies (Gagliardi, 1990), but
Table 3: Shifting exegetical meaning of the HST megaproject over time. hasn’t been mentioned in project man-
agement studies, with only a few excep-
tions (Löfgren, 2015; Van den Ende &
the implementation of transport for train more negative meanings. Using the con- Van Marrewijk, 2014). The Ministry of
travelers. For example, the Government cept of temporal bracketing (Langley, I&E and Rijkswaterstaat used the sym-
insisted upon the financial return, and 1999), Table 3 shows how this process bol as an intervention in the railway and
Dutch Railways were focused upon retain- took place over time. The recent change construction sectors, whereas Dutch
ing their strategic position over the Dutch
in the dominant exegetical meaning Rail­ways and ProRail used the symbol
rail system. Therefore, not only have the
of the HST as failure of railway lib- to try to strengthen their positions. In
interests of the train travelers been dam-
aged, but also the financial investment
eralization had political consequences this way, the three exegetical meanings
in the HST, made by taxpayers, remains with enquiries and the Dutch govern- influenced the megaproject’s process,
underutilized.” ment announced in 2016 the merger of causing, together with other factors,
Dutch Railways and ProRail to improve time delays, cost overruns, power strug-
Besides the three described exegeti- rail network operations. gles, and the failure to run high-speed
cal meanings, the HST as a failed project trains. This is in line with Harvey and
has become a dominant symbol in the Discussion Knox (2015), who emphasized that the
Netherlands. Since December 2016, an This article focused on the exegeti- construction of railways, bridges, and
intercity train (not a high-speed train) cal meanings of the HST megaproject tunnels is intrinsically political.
with a speed of 160 kilometers per hour by four public organizations and how In turn, the three exegetical mean-
(instead of 300 kilometers per hour) has these meanings have shaped the mega- ings were influenced by the inherently
been running 16 times daily to Brussels, project’s process. The findings demon- political megaproject process and by
and the promised travel time of 3 hours, strate that a megaproject—in this case, changes in the context. The HST as
16 minutes has not been met. Further- the HST—has the capacity to express radical intervention in the rail sector
more, the promised direct connection a political ambition. The HST initially changed into “failed liberalization” as
to London has never been realized. symbolized European (political) inte- a result of power struggles between the
Finally, the network remains sensitive gration and economic growth. These Ministry and the Dutch Railways. More-
for disruptions because of its complex- findings are in line with earlier stud- over, the positional meaning of the HST,
ity and software problems in the safety ies of megaprojects—for example, the the relation to other European integra-
systems (NRC Handelsblad, 20 Decem- Øresund Bridge (Löfgren, 2015), the tion projects on market liberalization,
ber 2016: E7). Perhaps if flying became Panama Canal (Smits & Van Marrewijk, rail deregulation, and new public man-
impossible for some reason, the HST 2012), and the Transatlantic Highway agement (Gruening, 2001) changed. In
might turn out to be a good investment (Harvey & Knox, 2015), all of which 10 years’ time, the HST as a synthesizing
after all. Some people have still not started as symbols of economic growth or iconic symbol of political integration
given up hope that the financial invest- and national and regional integration. and economic growth turned into an
ment made in the HST is only being This gives us ground to observe the iconic symbol of incapability, unrealis-
temporarily underutilized (Parliamen- potential capacity of infrastructure tic ambitions, cost overrun, time delay,
tary Commission, 2015). megaprojects to fulfill political dreams and civil resistance. These findings are
In sum, we have seen that the exeget- (Harvey & Knox, 2015). in contrast to general observations that
ical meanings of the HST megaproject The findings demonstrate that the organizational symbols are fixed in per-
were not fixed and stable; they became HST encapsulated three different exe- ceptible forms (Geertz, 1973) and have
obsolete, meaningless, or empty or were getical meanings. The complex and considerable staying power (Alvesson
even completely replaced by other, profound representation of the HST & Berg, 1992). This case revealed that

56  December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal


the encapsulation of meaning to sym- studies (Alvesson & Berg, 1992; Gagliardi, terms, as this may help them prevent
bols is subject to change over time, 1990; Nauta, 1991; Rafaeli & Pratt, 2006) fragmentation of project goals or dis-
which makes megaprojects so complex and opens opportunities for studying putes over which decisions (and direc-
to manage successfully. symbols in megaprojects. The organiza- tions) should be taken to reach the
The failure to realize the high-speed tional understanding of symbols in terms objectives of the project (Clegg & Kreiner,
train service seriously undermined the of their capacity to encapsulate differ- 2013). The work practices of stakeholder
authority of the Dutch government in ent meanings for different groups allows employees are rooted in different orga-
terms of its capacity to make decisions project management scholars to conduct nizations and they convey distinct
and realize large infrastructure mega- an historical analysis of megaprojects, understanding and interpretations of a
projects. Avoiding the pitfall of cultural which is frequently asked for in project megaproject; this can cause issues in
determination (Firth, 1973), it can be management studies (e.g., Söderlund & collaboration and role-taking during the
concluded that infrastructure mega- Lenfle, 2013). execution of the project. Because the
projects symbolize both a dream of Furthermore, the article contributes connection between a megaproject as a
economic development and social the concept of exegetical meaning to symbol and its interpretation is multivo-
trans­formation, and a disappointment the growing debate on the problematic cal and subject to change, regular the-
of failed ambitions, incompetence, evolvement of megaprojects (­ C icmil matic workshops and rituals are needed
and waste of public funding. At first & Hodgson, 2006; Flyvbjerg, 2014; to align the various stakeholders in a
sight, these are opposite ends of a spec- ­Söderlund, 2004; Van Marrewijk, 2015). megaproject. This will help ensure that
trum, but at the same time they are Exegetical meanings have proven to the right issues and topics are addressed
interrelated: One can only be disap- encapsulate the complexity of mega- during the execution of a megaproject.
pointed if one’s expectations are too projects. The multivocality of symbolic
high, and, as we know, high hopes and interpretations and their strategic use References
expectations are deeply ingrained in by stakeholders hindered the HST Ad Valvas (2003). Hansje Brinker has a
political d­ecision-making processes megaproject’s successful execution. The finger in the soup [Hansje Brinker heeft
(Flyvbjerg et al., 2003), so it is not sur- strategic use of symbols hasn’t been een vinger in de pap]. Vrije Universiteit
prising that megaprojects have also d iscussed yet in megaproject stud-
­ Magazine, 27 November 2003, p. 7.
become symbols of failure. ies, with the exception of a few studies AD newspaper (2007). Completion HST
(Löfgren, 2015; Van den Ende & Van has been suspended again [Oplevering
Conclusions ­Marrewijk, 2014). HSL Zuid opnieuw uitgesteld]. November
This article explored the symbolic rep- The limitations of this study stem 2007, p. 9
resentations of the HST megaproject, from the reinterpretation of the data Altshuler A., & Luberoff, D. (2003).
which initially started as a symbol of sets, which have been developed over Megaprojects: The changing politics of
optimistic European integration, where nearly 15 years with slightly different urban public investiments. Washington,
people could travel freely in high-speed research questions. This issue has been DC: Brookings Institution.
trains without border controls. Three ad­dressed by going back and forth Alvesson, M. (2002). Understanding
exegetical meanings have been found between the original data sets and the organization culture. London, England:
of the HST as (1) radical innovative analysis (Yanow & Schwartz-Shea, 2006). Sage.
contract, (2) intervention in the Dutch Furthermore, limitations are found in
Alvesson, M., & Berg, P. (1992).
rail sector, and (3) a lynchpin of the rail the focus of this study on the public orga-
Organisational culture and
transport business. The strategic use of nizations involved in the start, design,
organisational symbolism. Berlin,
these meanings by the four public orga- construction, and maintenance of the
Germany: Walter de Gruyter.
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gles, serious delays, and cost overruns representation by potential users of the Bakker, R. M., DeFillipi, R., & Sydow, J.
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The Multivocality of Symbols
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Netherlands. He was trained as a professional engineer
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megaprojects. His topics of interest are cultural change,
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collaborative practices of public and private partners,
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projects. International Journal of knowledge in collaborative relationships acts as an expert consultant. He can be contacted at
Project Management, 32(7), 1134–1145. in megaproject alliances: Organizing a.h.van.marrewijk@vu.nl

December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal  59


PAPERS Stakeholder Value Constructs in
Megaprojects: A Long-Term
Assessment Case Study
Pernille Eskerod, Webster Vienna Private University, Vienna, Austria
Karyne Ang, University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), Australia

ABSTRACT ■ INTRODUCTION

M
egaprojects have been growing in scale and frequency globally
By definition, megaprojects consume numer-
(Flyvbjerg, 2014; Gellert & Lynch, 2003); therefore it is important
ous resources and impact numerous peo-
to understand issues that accompany this particular project type.
ple, even across generations; it is therefore
Winch (2017) argues that “considerable effort needs to be put
important that they bring considerable value
into extending project stakeholder management theory for megaprojects
to their initiators and other stakeholders.
both empirically and theoretically” (p. 14) and he points to more gaps in the
Based on stakeholder value construct frame-
literature, which, among these, include (1) the link between megaprojects and
works identified in the literature and a single
society, in other words, society as an important stakeholder of megaprojects;
case study of the construction and operations
and (2) future generations as another important stakeholder due to the long-
of an over 50-year-old American highway
term impact of most megaprojects.
bridge, we identify ways to understand, clas-
Chang, Chih, Chew, and Pisarski (2013) state that the key to megaproject
sify, and express megaproject stakeholder
success is found in the value created and captured during and post projects,
value.The research links different stakeholder
both for the funding organization as well as for the stakeholders. Project
types to types of value constructs. Knowing
success needs to be considered as an ongoing and long-term (emergent)
which types of value constructs matter to
process of value creation in contrast to the traditional output measures of
different stakeholder types could potentially
cost, time, quality, or financial value returns. Shenhar and Dvir (2007) agree,
help project representatives communicate
as they state that value created for end users and other stakeholders needs
more efficiently and effectively.
to be addressed. Researchers (e.g., Ika, 2009; Fahri, Biesenthal, Pollack, &
Sankaran, 2015) emphasize that many project success criteria (e.g., satisfac-
KEYWORDS: megaproject; stakeholder;
tion of clients, end users, and other stakeholders, as well as the strategic
value constructs; value opportunities;
objectives of the client organization) can only be understood a long time after
benefits
the project has been finalized. Acknowledging that megaprojects can impact
a society years and decades after project completion, Sato and Chagas (2014)
suggest that the measurement of project success should incorporate “[1] the
time between the initial idea of the project and the time when success is
being assessed and [2] the stakeholders [should be allowed to] apply whatever
success criteria that are relevant for them in terms of utility at that moment
in time” (p. 633). The first part of their suggestion is in line with Fahri et al.
(2015) who state that research about measurements of the long-term impacts
and outcomes are scant, and they therefore suggest a project close-out phase
(i.e., the stage when project outputs have been delivered) is added when
assessing project impact (e.g., on the environment and the community). The
second part of the suggestion is in line with Oliomogbe and Smith’s (2012)
statement that research on project stakeholder value should reveal ‘[the]
understanding [of ] how stakeholders value different things’ (p. 617).
In order to address the gaps and suggestions identified above, we aim
Project Management Journal, Vol. 48, No. 6, 60–75 to identify ways to understand, classify, and express megaproject stake-
© 2017 by the Project Management Institute holder value, while simultaneously acknowledging that different types of
Published online at www.pmi.org/PMJ stakeholders may relate to different kinds of values; in other words, they

60  December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal


may place emphasis on different kinds The limitations of this research are: government, political groups” (p. 55). In
of consequences of the megaproject at (1) The case study concerns only five other parts of his book, Freeman (1984)
hand. By allowing stakeholder value specific stakeholder types (i.e., project mentions more stakeholder types (e.g.,
constructs to be defined as positive con- owners, project members, local busi- the media and special interest groups,
sequences of the megaproject perceived nesses and non-profit organizations, such as environmentalists). His mes-
and appreciated by stakeholders, our local citizens, and the general public). sage is that no general list of relevant
research question (RQ) is the following: Other stakeholder types that might be stakeholder types can be created. Any
relevant (e.g., legal authorities or reg- manager or organization must identify
Which stakeholder value constructs mat-
ulators, non-local, non-governmental specific stakeholder groups and decide
ter for different types of megaproject
organizations [NGOs]—e.g., environ- how to deal with them. A list of generic
stakeholders?
mentalist groups, and the press—are stakeholder types should only be viewed
We answer the question by identify- not included in the empirical study); as a starting point for a dialog among the
ing the theoretical frameworks on stake- and (2) the case study does not contain parties involved in strategic manage-
holder value offered in the literature, quantitative analyses of economic value ment. This line of reasoning has been
and by conducting an empirical study generated or of environmental impact followed by other researchers, even
of stakeholders of an over 50-year-old to the bridge. though many of them also list generic
highway bridge in the United States— The article is structured as follows: stakeholders as a source of inspiration.
the Astoria-Megler Bridge (hereafter First, the theoretical framework is pre- Dröge, Germain, and Halstead (1990),
referred to as “Astoria Bridge”)—which sented, followed by the research meth- for example, pointed to shareholders,
connects the U. S. states of Washington odology. Next, a section on findings is customers, voters, the general public,
and Oregon on the west coast. The presented and, finally, a conclusion and financial community, lawmakers, com-
bridge was chosen for the study because suggestions for managerial implications. munities, the press, higher education,
(1) it has generated substantially more employees and their families, labor
value to the stakeholders than stipu- Theoretical Framework unions, company distributors, and other
lated in the business case at the time The Concept of Stakeholders and companies, including competitors, as
of project approval, and (2) abundant Stakeholder Types sources of inspiration; and Turner and
material is available on use of the bridge Since Cleland’s early work about ongo- Zolin (2012) who pointed to the investor
and the value perceptions of various ing project evaluation (1985, 1986), or owner, project executive or project
types of stakeholders due to the fact that stakeholder management has been a sponsor, consumers, operators/users,
material had been collected and gener- topic in the project management lit- project manager and project team,
ated for the bridge’s 50th anniversary in erature. (An overview of this subject can senior supplier (design and/or manage-
2016 and was made publicly available be found in Eskerod, Huemann, and ment), other suppliers (goods, materi-
on the internet. Savage, 2015). Even though no consen- als, or services), and the public. As can
This research is relevant for theory sus exists on the definition of a project be seen, some generic stakeholder types
and practice for two different reasons: stakeholder, most researchers build on are overlapping, whereas others are not.
an instrumental reason and an ethical Freeman’s (1984) seminal work, which For the purpose of this research, the
one. Insights into the combination of also holds true for the definition chosen contribution from this part of the litera-
certain stakeholder types and types of for this article: “[Project stakeholders ture review is that stakeholder types will
perceived value can help project repre- are] the persons and entities that can differ across projects, and that relevant
sentatives communicate with the vari- affect or be affected by the project” stakeholder types should be identified
ous stakeholder types in more efficient (Eskerod & Jepsen, 2013, p. 1). by management in each specific case.
and effective ways, thereby enhanc- Freeman’s (1984) core message Lists of the generic types, however, can
ing the likelihood that they will con- was that managers should consider be referred to for inspiration.
tinuously support the project as well more individuals and groups than their
as deem the project successful. This company’s shareholders in order to The Concept of the Project Life Cycle
is the instrumental reason. By defini- be successful when conducting stra- Because every project, per definition,
tion, megaprojects consume numer- tegic management. Freeman (1984) is temporary, its course can be viewed
ous resources (often based on public pointed to the following generic stake- as a life cycle (Lundin & Söderholm,
funding) and impact many people, even holder types of a very large organi- 1995). The classical project life cycle
across generations. As a consequence, it zation: “owners, financial community, consists of four stages: (1) starting the
is of ethical importance that they bring activist groups, customers, customer project; (2) organizing and preparing;
considerable value to their initiators advocate groups, unions, employees, (3) carrying out the work; and (4) clos-
and other stakeholders. trade associates, competitors, suppliers, ing out the project (Project Management

December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal  61


Stakeholder Value Constructs in Megaprojects: A Long-Term Assessment Case Study
PAPERS

Institute, 2013). A life cycle model spe- on the various consequence types. For “utility [is understood as something]
cifically dealing with the management example, the owner or investor pay- to reflect value a stakeholder receives
of infrastructure megaprojects is offered ing for the project, is focused on (1) that actually has merit in eyes of the
by Priemus (2010) and is comprised whether the project’s outputs are deliv- stakeholder and it is a function of the
of: (1) problem analysis; (2) compila- ered on time, within budget, and with stakeholder’s utility function, which
tion of a functional program of require- appropriate features and levels of per- express the stakeholder’s preferences
ments; (3) elaboration of the technical, formance; (2) whether the asset deliv- for particular types of values” (p. 102).
practical, and economic aspects and ered (i.e., the project outputs) continues The authors developed a four-factor
preparation of the project until it is to perform, makes a profit, enhances model of the types of value that stake-
ready for execution; (4) realization of a good reputation and customer loy- holders seek from their relationships
the project from start to finish; and alty and, in general, that the stipu- with an organization: (1) stakeholder
(5) operation of the infrastructure after lated project outcomes are achieved; utility associated with actual goods
completion. An advantage of this model and finally (3) whether new technology, and services; (2) stakeholder utility
is that it includes the time after comple- competence, capability, a new class of associated with organizational justice;
tion, whereas the classical project life product or similar, as a result of the (3) stakeholder utility from affilia-
cycle “fails to capture the longer term asset, materialize. In other words, this tion; and (4) stakeholder utility associ-
effects that megaprojects usually pro- stakeholder type has a vested interest in ated with perceived opportunity costs
duce.” (Sato & Chagas, 2014, p. 625). The all of the three consequence types. The (Harrison & Wicks, 2013, p. 103).
time after project completion is also in end users may also be interested in all As Harrison and Wicks (2013) point
focus, when Fahri et al. (2015) suggest three types, but for different reasons; to the perception of utility (e.g., related
that a project close-out phase (i.e., the they may focus on the timely delivery to organizational justice), Chang et al.
stage when project outputs have been and quality of the project outputs in (2013) state that perceived value of a
delivered) should be included when order to be able to start using the asset, project will not only relate to something
assessing project impact. for example, a bridge; the project out- functional or commercial but also to
come for them may be that they spend some­thing experiential, whether cogni-
The Concept of Megaproject less time on transportation, whereas tively or emotionally.
Stakeholder Value the project impact may be that they will Other researchers (e.g., Flyvbjerg,
Acknowledging that any project goes have less stressful workdays and be able 2012, 2014; Ang & Killen, 2016; Ang,
through a life cycle, Turner and Zolin to spend more time on the job and/or Killen, & Sankaran, 2016; Davis, 2014,
(2012) suggest in a conceptual article with family. When it comes to the gen- 2016) have offered conceptual frame-
that the consequences of a project can eral public, they may be concerned with works related to megaproject stake-
be differentiated by three types: proj- the environmental impact in the years holder value perceptions (or sometimes
ect outputs, project outcomes, and to come after project finalization, but referred to as “project success dimen-
project impacts. Project outputs are interested neither in the project outputs sions”). Many of the authors of con-
defined by Turner and Zolin (2012) as nor the project outcomes. ceptual papers agree that various
“the new asset delivered by the proj- In line with Turner and Zolin (2012), stakeholder types focus on different
ect, commissioned at the end of the Harrison and Wicks (2013) acknowledge project success dimensions; in other
project” (p. 90); whereas project out- that various (types of ) stakeholders may words, they value different elements
comes are defined as “the new capa- appreciate the different consequences generated by the project and suggest
bilities that operation of the new asset of strategic efforts and even refer to that this should be incorporated into
gives to the investing organization . . . one of the classical economic thinkers megaproject stakeholder manage-
[and] its successful achievement can Adam Smith (1776), who has claimed ment. The researchers differ, however,
be judged in the months after the proj- that “individuals know—what is best for when it comes to suggestions on how
ect” (p. 90); and project impacts are them—that value is something that indi- to deal with the multi-faceted value
defined as “the long-term performance viduals should define for themselves perceptions. For example, Davis (2016)
improvement that it is expected the and not allow governments or others proposes that dimensions should be
new capabilities will enable the par- to choose in their stead” (Harrison incorporated into a project success
ent organization to achieve . . . [and] & Wicks, 2013, p. 101). The authors measurement, thereby allowing all
it will be judged years after the end of define value as “anything that has the stakeholder groups to share the same
the project” (p. 90). Turner and Zolin potential to be of worth to stakeholders” perception of project success, whereas
(2012) suggest that different stake- (pp. 101–102) and point to utility as Flyvbjerg (2012, 2014) and Ang and
holder types (eight different types are another important concept related to colleagues (Ang & Killen, 2016; Ang
mentioned) place different emphases stakeholder value, when stating that et al., 2016) point to the importance

62  December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal


of emphasizing different aspects when with the public, thereby enabling them constructs. In their research, they identi-
dealing with different stakeholder types. to be re-elected and/or honored in the fied seven value perspectives employed
Flyvbjerg (2012, 2014) suggests that present and the future. The economic by stakeholders and an eighth perspective
megaproject proposals are perceived sublime relates to the prospect of creat- was added in Ang et al. (2016) (see Table 1
as attractive by project initiators and ing jobs and business opportunities in for an overview of the eight perspectives).
other stakeholders due to four so-called the project phase as well as after project Table 1 shows that project stakehold-
sublimes (technological, political, eco- termination. In addition to politicians, ers employ numerous ways of expressing
nomic, and aesthetic dimensions of the stakeholder types that can relate posi- and demonstrating both the tangible and
megaproject proposal), and that differ- tively to this sublime include business intangible value contributions of projects.
ent project stakeholder types can be people, trade unions, contractors, con- Since publication of the Brundtland
convinced to support the proposal by struction and transportation workers, Report by The World Commission on
different dimensions of the megapro- consultants, bankers, investors, land- Environment and Development (WCED)
ject. The technological sublime relates owners, lawyers, and developers (Fly- in 1987, values related to sustainability
to the excitement engineers and tech- vbjerg, 2014). The fourth sublime—the have also been on the research agenda
nology-oriented people derive from the aesthetic sublime—‘talks’ to stakehold- when it comes to stakeholders. In this
potential opportunity of being part of ers who appreciate artefacts and struc- report, sustainable development is
something uniquely new in terms of tures such as buildings and bridges, defined as “development that meets the
a ‘longest-tallest-fastest’ type of proj- which are considered iconic and beau- needs of the present without compro-
ect. The political sublime relates to the tiful from a design point of view. This mising the ability of future generations
excitement politicians derived from the group includes designers, artists, area to meet their own needs.” (WCED, 1987,
possibility of generating ‘legacies’ on residents, and other interested parties. p. 46). The definition especially empha-
themselves and their efforts and receiv- Ang and Killen (2016) offer another sizes the long-term perspective of sus-
ing positive visibility in the media and framework to discuss stakeholder value tainable development as well as values

Value Perspective Characteristics of the Perspectives for Value Identification


Singular/transactional value Relationship drawn between labor (provider) and output (recipient) (Smith, 1776).
Routine activities, simple, found mainly in task-oriented activities, or operational supervision.
Value or deliverables derived are usually planned (deliberate), expected, and articulated upfront.
Generative value Value that is generated through projects and activities is not static but flows on (ripple effect) to deliver value in
other areas, in the present and future to benefit different stakeholders.
Value derived could be planned (deliberate) or unplanned (emergent). Value is generated in the longer time horizon,
and generative value emerges as work unfolds.
Transformational value Ability to change circumstances, magnitude, or quality of project, portfolio, or organization. Adds value through
reputation, publicity, morale, and reinforcing the strategic purpose of the portfolio.
Likely to have a longer term time horizon.
Includes facilitating changes to stakeholder mental models or the way project management is practiced in the system.
A value spectrum (range) When value runs along a range, e.g., through time-based expressions (short to long term), cognition (rational to
emotional) viewpoints (individual to multi-perspectival or collective) and function (operational to strategic).
Retrospective-reflective-future Involves rolling hindsight in sensemaking (Weick, 1995). Value is not static, it shifts (Grönroos & Voima, 2012)
oriented value based on past experiences, present realizations, and future anticipations.
Value realized in the past may pave the way for present and future opportunities.
Value networks and relationships Includes relationships that are collaborative or cooperative (Agarwal & Selen, 2009).
Describes the ability of stakeholders to engage and add value through their own experiences and connections with others.
Preventative value Used in decision making under conditions of risk and uncertainty, where project investments are about prevention
or minimizing negative consequences to the portfolio or organization.
Business case is built around the endpoints to risk reduction, demonstrates the downside of not investing where
the resulting outcomes could be major and sufficiently devastating as opposed to the often invisible upside
(normality, maintaining the status quo of the investments).
Personal reward Emotional expressions such as pleasure, inspiration, satisfaction, and enhanced personal identity from a
stakeholder’s involvement in a project as a member or beneficiary.
Table 1: Value perspectives (based on Ang & Killen, 2016; Ang et al., 2016).

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Stakeholder Value Constructs in Megaprojects: A Long-Term Assessment Case Study
PAPERS

such as solidarity and fairness across phase, and to investigate whether Ang coast of the United States, which is the
generations. The first publications on and colleagues’ (Ang & Killen, 2016; Ang longest continuous truss span bridge in
sustainable development focused on et al., 2016) framework can be tied to North America (Great Columbia cross-
issues related to protection of the envi- different stakeholder types. ing celebrates, 2006) (See Figure 1).
ronment and natural resources (i.e., Another interesting contribution The case is selected because it is
ecological issues), whereas recent lit- to the theory on stakeholder value is rich and powerful (Siggelkow, 2007) for
erature emphasizes the need for inte- the so-called project value opportunity the topic at hand. This single case study
grating ecological, economic, and social (Lechler, Edington, & Gao, 2012; Lechler, addresses the statement by Flyvbjerg
dimensions (Eskerod & Huemann, Gao, & Edington, 2013); in other words, (2006) that “a discipline without exem-
2013). Meadows, Meadows, Randers, “project opportunities that provide the plars is an ineffective one” (p. 219) and it
and Behrens (1972) state that the sus- potential to exceed the predefined stake- also responds to Söderlund and Lenfle’s
tainability dimensions are interrelated holder value of a project during that proj- (2013) call for investigation of historical
and influence each other; however, ect’s implementation [i.e., execution]” projects, due to the fact that the first
AlWaer, Sibley, and Lewis (2008) point (Lechler et al., 2013, p. 17), which we also recorded proposal of the bridge was
to the fact that various (types of ) stake- add in the project close-out phase. The in 1928 (Bridge Timeline, 2016) and in
holders may have different and sub- topic of encouraging exploitation of proj- 2016 it celebrated its 50th anniversary.
jective perceptions when undertaking ect opportunities to maximize project Analyzing stakeholder value constructs
sustainability assessment. stakeholder value is, however, outside related to a megaproject whose outputs
In addition to the mentioned con- the scope of this article, but is presented have been in operation for over 50 years,
ceptual articles on frameworks for in our other publications (Eskerod, allows us to directly address one of
stakeholder value, researchers have Ang, & Andersen, 2017; Eskerod, Ang, & the literature gaps, which Winch (2017)
also conducted empirical studies on Andersen, forthcoming). identifies: future generations as a stake-
stakeholder value. In Table 2, we list The conclusions of the literature holder. It is worth further mentioning
the articles containing empirical stud- review are that (1) stakeholder value is a that the bridge was constructed within
ies reviewed, which are relevant to our multifaceted concept; (2) various types budget, ahead of schedule, and with
study. of stakeholder value constructs exist; unexpected benefits. Such projects are
When reviewing Table 2 it can be (3) the perception of value or impor- few and far between and therefore need
seen that, even though they are sources tance of value seems to be contingent on to be studied carefully as especially
of inspiration, none of the papers the types of stakeholders; and (4) there revealing cases for potentially useful
answers the research question we have is a gap in the existing literature when it lessons (Flyvbjerg, 2014).
set out to investigate. They do not relate comes to stakeholder value constructs In 1953, 25 years after the project
perceived stakeholder value to mega- in the close-out phase of the megapro- proposal, a partnership was formed
project stakeholder types as we have ject life cycle, as the existing literature between the Port of Astoria, Oregon
aimed to do in our study. None of the focuses on the pre-project phase, during State Highway Department, the Wash-
papers relates to the RQ as well as those which a project proposal is developed, ington Toll Bridge Authority, and Pacific
of Flyvbjerg’s (2012, 2014) and Ang and the project execution phase. County, Washington, to assess the feasi-
and colleagues’ (Ang & Killen, 2016; bility of building a joint bridge (Bridge
Ang et al., 2016) frameworks. Flyvbjerg Research Methodology Timeline, 2016). In 1961, the legislatures
(2012, 2014) directly relates name-given As we position ourselves within the sci- of the states of Oregon and Washington
stakeholder types to the various dimen- entific approach of social constructiv- agreed to fund the project. In summary,
sions of a megaproject, whereas Ang ism (Berger & Luckmann, 1966), our the project phases of the bridge were:
and colleagues (Ang & Killen, 2016; Ang contribution concerns the understand- pre-project phase (1928–1961); construc-
et al., 2016) emphasize that perceived ing of megaproject stakeholder value tion (1962–1966); and operation, in other
value can be expressed in many dif- constructs; in other words, which mega- words, close-out phase (1966–present).
ferent ways, incorporating more ways project consequences they appreciate The costs of construction (US$24 mil-
than Flyvbjerg (2012, 2014). In addition, and perceive as valuable. lion) would translate to half a billion U. S.
these authors cover perceived value in dollars in 2016 (according to Measuring-
the whole project life cycle. Single Case Study Worth.com, accessed 27 January 2016).
In our study it is relevant to clar- The research is based on a single case The originally intended stakeholder
ify whether Flyvbjerg’s (2012, 2014) study (Eisenhardt, 1989); in other words, value was an infrastructural improvement
framework can be applied to the mega- stakeholder value constructs related to for people crossing the Columbia River.
project’s close-out phase (Fahri et al., the proposal, construction, and opera- This improvement was for locals traveling
2015), not only the project proposal tion of the Astoria Bridge on the west from the state of Oregon to the state of

64  December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal


Studies (in
chronological Key Gaps in Relation to the
order) Context and Method Key Contributions Phenomena in Our Study
Olander (2007) •  Construction industry •  Suggests a method for project stakeholder analysis that •  The method does not examine
•  Sweden considers that different stakeholders may have different and evaluate application of
•  Qualitative method needs and expectations the method across different
•  Three longitudinal case •  Points to the usefulness of differentiation between stages and levels of project
studies proponents and opponents execution, which includes
•  Demonstrates how a wide variety of stakeholders can be both external and internal
included in analysis (e.g., the municipality, the country’s stakeholders.
administrative board, the national government, residents in
the vicinity, interest group for the preservation of the city’s
image, interest group for senior citizens, the media)
Rowlinson and •  Real estate and •  Point to different kind of stakeholders (upstream, •  The authors do not match the
Cheung (2008) construction industry downstream, external) stakeholder types explicitly to
•  Hong Kong and Australia •  Success in achieving project performance and client the longer term objectives.
•  Triangulated approach satisfaction
(qualitative and quantitative •  Longer term objectives cannot be achieved without
methods)—semi-structured additionally focusing on stakeholder management issues
interviews, observation,
document examination, and
case studies
Li, Ng, and •  Major infrastructure and •  Proposes a method of analyzing stakeholder concerns •  Even though concerns also
Skitmore (2012) construction (MIC) project •  Results indicate a significant divergence of views among can be seen as related to our
•  Hong Kong stakeholder groups concept of stakeholder value,
•  Diverse research method •  Conflicts arise when there is a mismatch between the focus on concerns does
(literature review peoples’ different perceptions of the issues not fully cover our focus on
and content analysis, •  Policy and decision makers should strive to resolve the stakeholder value.
questionnaire survey, face- majority of conflicts arising throughout the project life
to-face interviews, mean cycle to maximize chances of success
score ranking, and fuzzy •  Allows a thorough assessment taking the views of all
comprehensive evaluation) concerned (i.e., the general public, government, pressure
groups, and people affected by the project) into account
Hartmann and •  A road maintenance •  Suggests that road agencies should redirect their •  The article is very closely
Hietbrink (2013) project (an arterial efforts from trying to determine and meet stakeholder related to our topic as it
highway ring road) expectations to allowing stakeholders to experience the investigates how expectations,
•  The Netherlands improvements of a maintenance project by providing experiences, and satisfaction
•  Questionnaires sufficient information before and during the project interrelate in a road
•  Stakeholder groups that •  Helps to determine whether high but realistic expectations maintenance project. However,
are directly affected by the about certain road impacts should be stated or overstated the focus on expectations does
highway section: highway about what can be expected from the maintenance in not fully correspond with our
users, people living close order to gain satisfied stakeholders focus on stakeholder value.
to the highway, and •  Implies that maintenance projects should lead to •  In our data collection,
companies located along noticeably improved road infrastructure, since the value of we focus on the current
the highway. a road will emerge at the moment of its usage perception by each informant
•  Indicates that the duration of a project might be adjusted of value generated due
to experiences or stakeholders might be not able to recall to the megaproject. This
their expectations after project termination incorporates stakeholder
value (types), which were
not thought of at project
initiation. So it is not relevant
for our study whether our
informants can recall their
initial expectations or not.

(continued)

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Stakeholder Value Constructs in Megaprojects: A Long-Term Assessment Case Study
PAPERS

Studies (in
chronological Key Gaps in Relation to the
order) Context and Method Key Contributions Phenomena in Our Study
Panahi, Moezzi, •  Construction industry •  Contributes to the extant literature of organizational •  The articles are both very
Preece, and Wan •  Malaysia behavior in construction relevant as they deal with
Zakaria (2017); •  Quantitative method using •  Suggests that a personal–organizational value conflict is a value constructs as well as
Panahi, Preece, questionnaire survey better and stronger predictor of job satisfaction value conflicts in construction
and Wan Zakaria •  Shows the importance of value-based management companies. However, the
(2016) •  Suggests that project managers in the organizational focus on job satisfaction of
setting pay more attention to the construct of “values” the internal stakeholders
•  The expected result is a reduction in the conflicts in is too narrow for our topic,
projects and an increase in the job satisfaction of as it neither includes the
construction stakeholders stakeholder types we need
nor the life-cycle perspective,
in which project outcomes and
impact can first be measured
after project completion.
Mok, Shen, •  Major public engineering •  Diversities of stakeholder concerns and interdependencies •  This article contributes to
Yang, and Li projects (MEPs) between stakeholder concerns add complexities to major our work by pointing to the
(2017) •  China public engineering projects relevance of incorporating
•  Initiated and funded by the •  Illustrates how a network perspective can be used to multiple concerns (which
government analyze stakeholder concern interdependencies is an aspect of stakeholder
•  Four primary research value) and to address the
methods (case study, interdependencies between the
interviews, survey, and concerns, adding to complexity.
network-theory based All these concepts provided
analysis) inspiration for our study.
•  However, the importance
level of stakeholder concerns
and the identification of
major challenges faced by
stakeholders are not solely
related to the network
analysis result of concern
interdependencies.
•  In addition, the concept of
concern does not fully match
our concept of stakeholder
value, even though it can be
viewed as a sub-element.
Table 2: Relevant empirical literature on megaproject stakeholder value constructs.

Washington or vice versa, and for non-local photographs (see Table 3). In addition, for example, the public information
travelers on U. S. Route 101, as the bridge one of the authors made onsite observa- officer of the Oregon Department of
was the completing segment of this high- tions during a six-day stay in a hotel in Transportation, and partly through
way, which links the state of Washington Astoria, close to the bridge. snowball sampling (Goodman, 1961),
to California, and hence also Canada to Twenty-one individuals provided in which interviewees recommended
Mexico (Astoria-Megler Bridge, n. d.). direct input to the case study; 14 were additional participants. Some of the
interviewed (45–90 minutes), using interviewees were family related (i.e.,
Data Collection a semi-structured interview guide, parents and son, father and daughter),
To ensure the quality of the research, more whereas the remaining seven delivered thus accounting for subsequent genera-
data collection methods were utilized their input through public speeches. tions being involved in construction of
(Yin, 2014). The data consisted of inter- The 14 individuals were selected partly the bridge.
views, online videos of speeches, news- through their formal roles mentioned The individuals were categorized into
paper articles, books, website texts, and in our published material on websites, the following stakeholder types (however,

66  December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal


The use of CAQDAS enabled the codes
to be organized, revised, merged, and
reconstructed more flexibly and effi-
ciently (Miles et al., 2014).
The authenticity of our analysis is
demonstrated through the representa-
tion of a range of value perspectives
(multiple realities) by the different
stakeholders being studied. Triangula-
tion of different data sources added
strength to the data quality (Miles et al.,
2014). Consequently, our conclusions
are based on several different sources of
information following converging lines
of inquiry (Yin, 2014), where they all
triangulate on the same RQ.

Findings
An overview of the empirical findings;
Figure 1: Astoria Bridge, 2009 (Photo courtesy of Ron Reiring, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0). in other words, the stakeholder value
constructs associated with the various
stakeholder types identified in the inter-
some of them belonged to more than one identical and that have non-overlapping views and speeches, are presented in
type, for example, interviewee #6, who is components (Thomas, 2006), the data Table 4. The levels ‘Nil, Low, Medium,
both a project owner and a citizen), as were iteratively analyzed by both High, and Very High’ are based on the
this made sense for the stakeholders in authors who ultimately converged their frequency of coded mentions associated
the actual project (applying Freeman’s individual analyses. This study utilizes a with each sublime and stakeholder type.
[1984] advice that the relevant stake- recursive deductive–inductive analysis
holder groups should be defined in the approach (Miles, Huberman, Saldaña, Analysis Using the Four Sublimes
specific setting): 2014). Deductively, a common analysis Framework
framework guided by Flyvbjerg’s four When constructed, the Astoria Bridge
• Project owners (i.e., Oregon Depart- sublimes (2012, 2014) and the value was the longest continuous truss span
ment of Transportation, Washington perspectives typology framework by in the world (Astoria Bridge, n. d.), thus
Department of Transportation, a state Ang and colleagues (Ang & Killen, 2016; reflecting the technological sublime for
governor, Astoria’s mayor); Ang et al., 2016) were used by both at least two stakeholder groups—the
• Project members (involved in the bridge researchers. The deductive analyses designers, namely architect William A.
construction, e.g., construction workers); were balanced by inductively explor- Bugge; and the constructors DeLong
• Local businesses and NGOs (e.g., cham- ing new themes that emerged from the Corporation, American Bridge Com-
ber of commerce, an historical society); data. Important concepts, categories, pany, and Pomeroy Gerwick (Astoria-
• Local citizens (living and/or working in and patterns were identified, coded, Megler Bridge, n.d.). The second sublime
Astoria); and built up, and revised as new and differ- was the political one. The stakehold-
• The general public (e.g., non-locals from ent codes emerged. The collaborative ers in question were the political pro-
other parts of Oregon or Washington, a experience amounted to a dynamic dia- ponents of the bridge, who originated
member of congress, and representa- log, as the researchers interrogated and from two U. S. states (Oregon and Wash-
tives from the ‘sister city’ of Waldorf in revisited the data iteratively, compared ington), even though the building of
Germany) new concepts with the frameworks and the bridge was mostly championed by
data, and then built abstractions and Oregon representatives (Associated
All interviews and speeches were more ‘what ifs’ with any new pattern Press, 1978). The political sublime was
recorded and transcribed. that emerged (Stake, 1995). Further- no doubt a factor, as can be seen in a
more, the thematic analysis of the data 1966 campaign advertisement by the
Data Analysis was conducted using a combination Governor of Oregon at the time, Mark
Recognizing that different research- of manual and CAQDAS (QSR NVivo) Hatfield, who was running for state
ers may produce findings that are not approaches (Bazeley & Jackson, 2013). senator and whose platform mentioned

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Stakeholder Value Constructs in Megaprojects: A Long-Term Assessment Case Study
PAPERS

Type of Document Sources Scope or Context Content


Semi-structured interviews Interviews with 14 key stakeholders Locals and non-Astorians Demographics and personal: Living in
classified under project owners (public From the states of Oregon or Astoria or surrounding areas, recollection
services and politicians), project Washington of experiences with the bridge (pre-during
members, local businesses and non- and post construction), significance of
profit organizations, local citizens, and Pre-during-post construction bridge to the individual, perceived public
the general public accounts sentiments, earliest and best memories of
Eight interviewees lived in the area Years lived in the area the bridge, anecdotes
for over 40 years, 5 had lived there for Accounts recalled as a child, Bridge construction: Memory about
under 40 years, and 1 was undisclosed teenager, or adult construction and media, incidents,
Astoria Clowns, recollection about the
local sentiments
Bridge operations: Changes, positive or
negative impacts and effects (during and
post construction), concerns, desired
changes upon reflection (if you could go
back in time), tolls, perceived sentiments
of future generations
Newspaper articles Associated Press (1962); Inkster (1966); Key incidences based on Bridge’s cause by Oregon representatives
Judge what he will do (1966); Sherman the timeline of the bridge (political debates between Astorian
(1967); Associated Press (1978); construction, post construction leaders and the states), oppositions on
Associated Press (1994); Hauser (2004); scale and budgets, completion of the
Webber (2011) bridge, political sublimes evident during
the conceptualization and pre-construction
periods
Book Stark (2014) Chronological description of the Historical background of the area and
development of the area stakeholders
Online videos (transcripts of Goicochea (2016): Speeches by governor, 50th anniversary celebration of Speeches by current government
speeches and open letters mayor, public services officials, the bridge representatives and open letters from
presented in the speeches) non-profit organization historical a congress member and more imply the
representatives, representatives from technological and political sublimes;
German sister city; included open letters evidence for the ‘generative perspective’
(to be read out load at the event) from of value; economic and symbolic
members of congress and more impacts of the bridge, and maintenance of
the bridge
Web-based articles The Daily Astorian by DePledge (2015); Astoria Bridge turns 50, bridge Historical account for the purpose
The Oregonian by Read (2015); Clatsop timeline of promoting the 50th anniversary
County Historical Society by Daly (2016); celebrations, a historical timeline since
The Daily Astorian by Spurr (2016); The the proposal in 1928
Oregonian by Hale (2016)
Photographs Provided by interviewees and through Photo illustrations of events During and post-construction periods;
websites (1962–2016) and stakeholders stakeholders, including the public,
politicians, and promoters
Reports Alternative Uses (2012), Bridge to Astoria—historical Highlights the historical accounts and
Monday Study Club Report by account of the bridge outlined issues with the proposed project and
Isaacson (2015) as well as alternative uses funding sources, stakeholder groups
involved
Points to alternative uses of the bridge
Table 3: Summary of data collected on Astoria Bridge.

68  December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal


the ­completion of the bridge among his Speeches presented by current gov- such as: ‘This is one of his many contri-
achievements (“Judge what he will do,” ernment representatives at the recent butions to the state of Oregon.’ (#4, Proj-
1966). The third sublime was the eco- 50th-year anniversary tended to describe ect owner); ‘a testament to the foresight
nomic sublime, which included growth the bridge through technological and of an earlier generation that recognized
in tourism businesses; fourth was the political sublimes. Speech phrases asso- that a well-managed transportation sys-
aesthetic sublime. The relevant stake- ciated with the technological sublime tem is the backbone of a thriving regional
holders included not just local groups include: ‘marvel of human innovation economy; visionary transportation advo-
(e.g., home and business owners, archi- and engineering power’ (#10, Local busi- cates.’ (#5, Project owner).
tects, and so forth) but also tourists ness and NGO), ‘man-made wonder’
(then and now), who believed the bridge (#6, Project owner), ‘engineering marvel; Analysis Using the Value Perspectives
was reason enough to visit the area, built with the strength to support the more Framework
as well as future generations (i.e., the than 6,000 daily crossings of today; resil- Analyzing the data through the value
current generation who is left with this ience to withstand every changing coastal perspectives framework (Ang & Killen,
aesthetic legacy). weather conditions; longest continuous 2016; Ang et al., 2016) (see the middle
Table 4 demonstrates that the local trans-bridge in the world’ (#5, Project part of Table 4) showed that ‘genera-
citizens and general public stakeholders owner). Meanwhile political rapture is tive value’ is a value perspective that is
tend to express their views through the manifested through how the bridge is a found to be strongly associated with all
aesthetic and economic expressions of living embodiment of state collabora- stakeholder types, for example: ‘It helps
delight, whereas the business represen- tion, good government, and team work, us to officially move goods from our
tatives tended to appreciate the politi- and a ‘landmark achievement.’ (#6, Proj- ports, from our fishing boats, from our
cal and economic sublimes. Those who ect owner). There were also praise for farms, fields, factories to national and
worked on the bridge, as well as busi- and acknowledgment of the previous international markets. Make no mis-
ness representatives, also appreciated government officials involved during take, a healthy tourism industry depends
the bridge’s technological achievements. the time of construction, with phrases on a healthy transportation system.’

Stakeholder Types
Local Businesses
Project Owners Project Members and NGOs Local Citizens General Public
Generative value Nil Med-High Very high High Very high
Personal reward Nil Medium Very high Very high Low
Ang and Killen’s Value

Preventative value Low Nil Low Medium Nil


Perspectives

Retrospective-future value Low Low Medium Low Low


Singular or transactional value Nil Low Low Low-Medium Low
Transformational value Nil Low Med-High Low Medium
Value networks and relationships Low Medium High-Very high High Low
Value spectrum Nil Nil Low Low Low

Aesthetic Low Low Low High Very high


Four Sublimes
Flyvbjerg’s

Economic Low Medium Medium High Very high


Political High Low-Medium High Low Nil
Technological Low Low-Medium Medium Low Low

Connecting places and people High Low High Very high Medium
Quality of Life —
Contribution

Symbolic value Medium Low Low High High


Functional or practical value, High Medium Very high High Low
e.g., time savings
Unexpected benefits Medium Low Med-High Med-High Low
Table 4: Empirical findings on the value frameworks associated with stakeholder types.

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Stakeholder Value Constructs in Megaprojects: A Long-Term Assessment Case Study
PAPERS

(#6, Project owner); and ‘projects like the In the longer term, the megapro- means a lot to those retirees on the
Astoria-Megler Bridge bring significant ject contributed positive social value by Washington side of the river. Because
benefits to local communities and unlock transforming the community’s quality otherwise they have to travel 50 miles to
key economic development opportuni- of life. Based on our analysis, we sug- Long View. Or 100 miles to Olympia. . . .
ties.’ (#5, Project owner). gest that ‘quality of life’ is a contributing They have more access to more special-
The value perspective ‘networks element outside the two frameworks. ized care over here.” (#13, Local citizen).
and relationships’ appears more highly This element describes the communi- “It meant that there were more possi-
associated with business representatives ty’s delight and the impact the bridge bilities for things to do, travel over there
as well as the local citizens, compared has had on their lives, both for local and whenever we want.” (#12, Local citizen).
with the other stakeholders, whereas the non-local stakeholders. Quality of life as an element was
value perspective depicting ‘personal The ‘Quality of life’ element is iden- also well-founded in the speeches of
reward’ is highly expressed by the local tified through the connectedness the the state representatives, as reflected
citizens and business representatives. bridge provides to the two states, which in the following examples: ‘have really
The value of the bridge is weakly asso- resulted in time savings for the commu- contributed to the economic well-being
ciated with a transactional perspective nity, freedom, the added mobility and and quality of life of our community;
and is recognized more as a transforma- connection with others, and access to it improves the quality of life and the
tional value mainly by business repre- facilities in other geographical areas, as land value, so for our residents over the
sentatives. The business representatives expressed by the following stakeholder Long Beach Peninsula area.’ (#4, Proj-
also appear more likely to reflect on the comments: ect owner); and ‘simply put, Oregon’s
value of the bridge retrospectively or “It’s just made us so much more a bridges, highways, roads, and public
further consider future value from the part of the world . . . We can go and zip transportation systems contribute to vir-
bridge. We also found evidence, how- out anywhere.” (#8, Project member). tually everything of value in our econ-
ever, of retrospective-reflective-future “There’s a lot of people who go back omy and in our lives . . . Systems that
value constructs in the speeches, specif- and forth . . . who work on one side and provide choices for us citizens, systems
ically in the expressions of acknowledg- live on the other side. There’s people who that connect our transport to our services
ment of the foresight and vision of their can go back and forth to visit their fami- and a system that connects our people
predecessors, as well as what the future lies, relatives, and there’s some really to work, school, recreation, and family.’
might hold, through remarks such as: fantastic places across the river for visit- (#6, Project owner).
‘inspire a renewed commitment to creat- ing the beaches.” (#12, Local citizen). Phrases evident from the interview-
ing a shared vision for our future, one that “It’s an extremely important bridge ees and speeches that demonstrate the
meets the needs of Oregon communities, for the communities of Astoria and also strong symbolic nature of the project
Washington communities and all their southwest Washington, because that really include: ‘symbolic of the coastal region’
people’ (#5, Project owner); and ‘as it was connects those communities.” (#3, Project (#18, General public), ‘always been an
50 years ago, as it is today, the Astoria- owner). icon’ (#9, Local business and NGO), and
Megler Bridge is a shining example of this “People weren’t going to come across, ‘collage of images I would associate with
type of investment, and stands symbolic sit in line for a ferry that took a half hour my home state.’ (#18, General public).
of what one generation can do for the to get here, half hour to get back. They’re In addition to being a physical icon,
next.’ (#6, Project owner). not going to do that to come over to shop the bridge is also symbolically associ-
Overall, although stakeholders tended in a penny store or shop in a grocery ated with progress and achievement,
not to express project value in ‘preventive store, but with the bridge, it just turned in other words, ‘it really made Asto-
terms,’ there were a few isolated expres- everything wide open both ways. Now, ria’ (#8, Project member). Further such
sions from the local citizens who dis- our residents can go over to Long Beach evidence is expressed as: “The bridge
cussed safety and maintenance as part of and Waco and shop there or recreate is a symbol of progress. It is not only a
the preventive value construct, as well as there, so it’s been a win/win for both means of transporting goods and people
the value through avoiding exposure to sides of the river.” (#9, Local business between states, but stands as an illustra-
health risks, the prevention of delays, and and NGO). tion of determination and ingenuity.”
inconveniences. “One of the things . . . Pacific County (#16, Local citizen), and “A lot of them
on the Washington side is a very large [future generations] aren’t going to pay
Further Findings retirement community. From the Wash- attention to the history of this bridge,
At the bottom of Table 4 we present ington side’s perspective, Astoria has the how it was really built by the little people
coded mentions, which did not fit into larger hospitals, the more specialized who stood up to the politicians and said,
the deductive analyses with the two doctors, and is in the process of building "No, we want the bridge!" (#9, Local
selected frameworks. a cancer treatment building too. That business and NGO).

70  December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal


Relating the above mentioned find- discontinued was that we’d been prom- and social dimensions (World Commis-
ings to the two theoretical frameworks, ised that it would be discontinued when sion on Environment and Development
it becomes clear that the economic the bridge was paid off. Then our repre- [WCED], 1987). According to AlWaer
delight that the business community sentative at the time said it is a good idea et al. (2008), various stakeholder types
and trade unions derived from gen- to keep the bridge toll on but it’s unfair placed different emphases on the proj-
erating revenue and creating employ- to have a bridge crossing the Columbia ect’s consequences on various dimen-
ment is highly associated with several River with a toll on it if other bridges sions. The locals (businesses, NGOs,
value perspectives: generative, trans- that cross the Columbia don’t have a toll and residents) pointed to the social and
formational, and value networks. This on them. There are five bridges in the economic dimensions when stating the
can also be explained by its very high Portland area that cross the Columbia time savings as a value of very high
association with the bridge as a con- and Willamette, and nobody that was in importance to them, whereas the gen-
nector of people to places. The access the political world at that time wanted eral public scored it low.
and connectivity generate opportunities to broach tolls on those bridges and so What was also revealed in the analy-
for economic growth and consequently our toll came off.” (#11, Local citizen). sis was that many of the stakeholder
transform the surroundings. What this It was clear from the data that most values identified relate to the project
means is that the bridge enabled and stakeholders observed that the bridge impact; in other words, the long-term
enhanced the value networks and rela- has had a great impact on the com- consequences, according to Turner and
tionships between the two states and munity. For example, the local citizens Colin’s (2012) project life cycle–based
this greatly resulted in an economic tended to comment that the bridge framework on project outputs, project
‘boom’ or ‘boost’ in the regions, which positively impacted on their lives and outcomes, and project impact.
depicts both generative (progressive) observed that business and the econ-
value as well as transformational value. omy were affected positively. Locals Conclusion and Managerial
This has especially benefited the next in the area benefitted primarily from Implications
generation of stakeholders. time savings and convenience. Simi- The research underlying this article set
The expressions of political delight larly, the general public that did not out to investigate how stakeholders of
in the bridge constructions were less live near the bridge acknowledged the megaprojects construct value; as part of
obvious from the interviews but are vis- high impact that the bridge had on the that, the authors investigated whether
ible from newspaper articles published local businesses and economy, yet they different value constructs matter differ-
before the construction (“Judge what he were more likely to comment from a ently to different types of stakeholders.
will do,” 1966) and the speeches from symbolic perspective. Those who were We identified ways to understand,
the 50th-anniversary celebration. In the involved in its construction perceived classify, and express megaproject stake-
1950s (the conceptualization and pre- that the bridge strongly impacted on holder value, and the research links
construction period), there were strong the lives of the locals and economy, types of stakeholders to varying types
political debates between the Astorian whereas business representatives were of value constructs. These findings are
leaders and the states on whether such able to recognize and relate to the high summarized in Table 4 and can be used
an investment should proceed. impact the bridge has had on the lives strategically by project representatives.
It appeared that the political stake- of locals and businesses, thus contrib- Knowing the focus of the varying types of
holders needed to balance the needs uting to the economy. Project owners value constructs by different stakeholder
and expectations of public stakehold- focused on the impact the bridge had types can help project representatives
ers, because the project decisions made in terms of the economy and what the communicate more efficiently and effec-
at the time could have a long-term bridge represented (i.e., symbolism). tively with stakeholders. The references
impact on future generations and state When asked about whether or not the to value constructs with a High or Very
funding. The following comments dem- bridge impacted on the environment, High score (as shown in Table 4) are
onstrate the decisional conflict between the informants generally stated they had well-suited for communication with the
the need for having funds for mainte- not observed any detrimental impacts. specific stakeholder type, whereas value
nance and living up to a public promise, This includes the current bridge main- constructs with Nil and Low scores are
which could cause further problems in tenance projects in which great care was not suited. References and inquiries
the longer term. “We were very happy being taken to protect the environment. made with respect to the stakeholder’s
not to have to pay a bridge toll. Most The comments related to quality personal value of the bridge is relevant,
people said we should have kept it on of life can be related to another con- for example, when communicating with
for maintenance so that we could keep ceptual framework, namely the con- local businesses, NGOs, and citizens,
it maintained properly. The reason that cept of sustainable development, in but not when communicating with indi-
we were told that the bridge toll was other words, the ecologic, economic, viduals from the general public.

December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal  71


Stakeholder Value Constructs in Megaprojects: A Long-Term Assessment Case Study
PAPERS

Our findings demonstrate that the Second, using such frameworks Ms. Petya Sabinova and Ms. Jovana
two most relevant frameworks identi- could improve the communication of Djuric, and Webster Vienna Private
fied in the literature—the four sub- value in megaproject processes and University, for their input on data col-
limes and the value perspectives—can stakeholder engagement by provid- lection, literature reviews, and write-
be used as guidelines for the value ing a specific ‘value language’ for each ups. We would also like to thank the
constructs expected from megaproject stakeholder group, specifically groups reviewers and editor for the construc-
stakeholders. However, more value with varying affections and needs. tive, valuable, and detailed input, which
constructs than those covered by the Communication is an essential part of have contributed to the improvement
two frameworks were also found in the megaproject activities. Through specific of the text.
data. This led us to propose that an stakeholder ‘value–language’ nuances,
additional element in the form of qual- value is expressed, reinforced, and References
ity of life, which focuses on values that channeled into current and future deci- Agarwal, R., & Selen, W. (2009).
are partly related to sustainable devel- sions, which, in turn, can help to further Dynamic capability building in service
opment dimensions (i.e., ecological, identify opportunities to improve the value networks for achieving service
social, and economic dimensions), is development, delivery, and capture of innovation. Decision Sciences, 40(3),
also relevant for the individual (types relevant value propositions and deliver- 431–475.
of ) stakeholders as well as life-cycle ables. The value perspectives typology AlWaer, H., Sibley, M., & Lewis, J. (2008).
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this is that project representatives seek- cation and language used with different sustainability assessment. Architectural
ing to promote value creation should stakeholder groups in order to build and Science Review, 51(1), 48–59.
communicate with the stakeholders in leverage relationships, experience, and Alternative Uses. (2012). Alternative uses
a way that is aligned with the particu- expertise to seek out opportunities that of highway right-of-way: Accommodating
lar stakeholder groups’ preferred value can benefit the various stakeholders in renewable energy technologies and
constructs—not only in the pre-project a megaproject. alternative fuel facilities. Report by
phase in which approval and initiation A limitation of this study is that we U. S. Department of Transportation,
of the project proposal is considered only had a few interviewees within each Research and Innovative Technology
success, but also in the post-project stakeholder type. However, by analyz- Administration, and J. A. Volpe National
phase, when project success is viewed. ing a megaproject whose outcome (i.e., Transportation Systems Center, January
This can be in terms of impact on the the bridge) has been in operation for 2012.
customer, business success, and pre- 50 years and with more family-related Ang, K., & Killen, C. (2016). Multi-
paring for the future; in other words, interviewees (e.g., parents and son, stakeholder perspectives of value in
the insights created can help inform father and daughter), presented us with project portfolios. EURAM 2016. Paris,
and enrich how one could position a unique opportunity to directly address France, 1–4 June.
and structure what we refer to as ‘the one of the gaps identified in the litera-
Ang, K., Killen, C. & Sankaran, S. (2016).
language of value’ to various stake- ture—accounting for future generations
‘Value for whom, by whom:’ Investigating
holders. Our findings demonstrate the as stakeholders, because the benefits
value constructs in non-profit project
richness of the case and the multiple (and drawbacks) they have inherited
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& Practice, 1(1).
megaproject. it would be interesting to conceptual-
Associated Press. (1962, April 2). Astoria
In summary, we suggest two ways ize how including this generation as
bridge plan furthered. Ellensburg Daily
our findings can assist organizations a stakeholder could have changed the
Record. p. 2.
responsible for managing multi-stake- process of the project (e.g., deciding
holder value in megaprojects: (1) an to continue with the toll taxes even Associated Press. (1978, August 30).
appreciation for multiple stakeholder after construction costs were repaid to Travelers find Astoria Bridge no longer
value expressions and perspectives; and account for current and future mainte- bridge to nowhere. Eugene Register-
(2) a ‘value-language’ to enhance stake- nance, which otherwise would become Guard, p. 11C.
holder engagement. a burden on the future generations of Associated Press. (1994, January 31).
First, the frameworks allow for value taxpayers). Astoria toll bridge paid off years early.
identification in both the short and Eugene Register-Guard. p. 5C.
long term and consider value that goes Acknowledgments Astoria Bridge. (n. d.). Britannica
beyond tangible and financial value to The authors would like to thank the Online Encyclopedia. Retrieved from
incorporate aspects of intangible social interviewees in the case study. Further, http://www.britannica.com/topic/
value. we would like to thank MBA students, Astoria-Bridge

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74  December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal


Yin, R. K. (2014). Case study research: at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New in both quantitative and qualitative research and
Design and methods. Thousand Oaks, Jersey, USA, and at WU Vienna University of is a hands-on researcher who is comfortable
CA: Sage Publications. Economics and Business. Between 2016 and 2017, with multiple inquiry methods. She teaches and
she spent three months at Webster University’s conducts educational research projects across
Pernille Eskerod is a Full Professor of campus in Bangkok, Thailand, to pursue her recent multiple faculties, including engineering and
Management and Organizational Behavior at research interests in the hospitality industry. Since information technology, design, architecture and
Webster Vienna Private University, Austria; she is 2015, she has been a SIG board member of the building, science, and law. Through her former role
a faculty member at the WU Executive Academy Project Organising SIG at the European Academy as account director for several consumer research
in Vienna, Austria; and holds a PhD in enterprise of Management (EURAM). In 2017, she undertook agencies in Australia, New Zealand, and Malaysia,
management. Her research focuses on stakeholder the role as SIG program manager at the EURAM Karyne developed and led multiple client-based
management, project opportunity management, conference in Glasgow, Scotland. She can be project portfolios encompassing new product
change management, temporary organizations, and contacted at pernille.eskerod@webster.ac.at. development (NPD), strategic brand management,
project benefit management. Pernille has authored consumer behavior, and market segmentation
more than 100 journal articles, books, book chapters, Karyne Ang is a project manager and part-time research project portfolios. Karyne holds a Master
and conference papers. She was the principal guest academic at the University of Technology, Sydney of Education (Organization Learning) from UTS and
editor of a special issue of Project Management (UTS), Australia. Her core research areas are a Bachelor of Business Administration (Marketing)
Journal ® on project stakeholder management in project portfolio management, multi-stakeholder from RMIT in Melbourne, Australia and is currently
2015. Pernille is of Danish nationality and has been engagement, value concepts, organizational completing her PhD at the University of Technology,
employed at the University of Southern Denmark learning, collaborative practices, and decision Sydney (UTS), Australia. She can be contacted at
for many years. She has been a visiting professor making in complex environments. Karyne engages Karyne.ang@uts.edu.au.

December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal  75


PAPERS Competitive Precinct Projects:
The Five Consistent Criticisms of
“Global” Mixed-Use Megaprojects
Mike Harris, Faculty of the Built Environment, The University of New South Wales,
Sydney, Australia

ABSTRACT ■ INTRODUCTION

S
ince the 1980s, competitively orientated, precinct-scale urban renewal
Mixed-use megaprojects on state-owned land
projects on state-owned land have been increasingly undertaken
have been increasingly occurring around the world
around the world. Large-scale development projects are far from new;
over the past few decades. This article reviews
the body of literature that has emerged on these
however, the projects occurring in the past few decades have been
projects during this period and investigates a num- similarly driven by globally interlinked political and economic restructuring
ber of projects more deeply by reviewing original processes occurring since the late 1970s (Del Cerro, 2013b; Lehrer & Laidley,
planning documents and undertaking interviews 2008; Moulaert, Rodriguez, & Swyngedouw, 2003; Oakley & Rofe, 2005; Olds,
with government officials, consultants, and other 2001; Orueta & Fainstein, 2008).
insiders. Project motives, delivery methods, and The focus of this article is on mixed-use megaprojects that are explicitly
built outcomes have been examined in order to motivated by four global processes: (1) city-based international competition
contextualize their emergence and proliferation, (Florida, 2002; Moretti, 2013b; Porter, 1998); (2) the mobility and growth of
leading to a typological understanding, defined in
knowledge economies (Montgomery, 2007; Moretti, 2013a); (3) the redirec-
this article as competitive precinct projects. A con-
tion of global investment from physical to human capital (Sassen, 2001); and
tent analysis of 30 reviews covering 42 mixed-use
(4) the dominance of market-rule ideology and politics (Brenner & Theodore,
megaprojects in 20 countries reveals remarkable
global consistency in thematic criticisms. Framed
2005). They vary in size from a few hectares to hundreds, as long as they
in this article as the “five consistent criticisms occupy at least enough blocks to be considered a city “precinct” or “quarter”
of ‘global’ mixed-use megaprojects,” they pose in their own right. They are multibillion-dollar comprehensive transforma-
a significant barrier to addressing increasingly tions of the urban space within their boundaries, commissioned by public
complex urban challenges as well as to their suc- authorities and usually delivered in partnership with private enterprise
cessful management from inception to delivery. (Lehrer & Laidley, 2008; van Marrewijk, Clegg, Pitsis, & Veenswijk, 2008).
While the consistent criticisms represent patterns As such, these projects offer lucrative capital markets, often publicly funded
that have endured within a globally active urban (Swyngedouw, Moulaert, & Rodriguez, 2002), despite p ­ ublic–private partner-
development type for over three decades, this
ships being driven by the desire to reduce public spending (Zimmermann &
research shows that rather than being a neoliberal
Eber, 2014). This capital market is now an underlying driver of urban mega-
hegemony, there are mixed political and ideo-
projects, with powerful urban growth coalitions advocating for and benefiting
logical aims and outcomes across projects and
sometimes within the same project. A typological
from their production (Siemiatycki, 2013).
understanding allows patterns to be examined and From a typological point of view, these mixed-use megaprojects can be
understood, variances and hybridity to be evalu- subcategorized as a globally active model of urban development, defined in this
ated, and more sophisticated future directions to article as competitive precinct projects (CPPs) (see Table 1 for examples of project
be mapped out in the pursuit of broader based and categorization).
city-scale project outcomes. The social, health, economic, and environmental benefits of a mixed-use
approach to urban design and planning have been increasingly understood and
KEYWORDS: urban megaprojects; competitive implemented over the past 50 years, and in a general sense, such an approach
cities; neoliberal globalization; urban renewal; can now be considered standard practice (Dovey & Pafka, 2017). CPPs emerged
urban planning
roughly 20 years after the disciplinary reengagement with mixed-use cities. The
political alignment with the above four global processes separates CPPs from the
Project Management Journal, Vol. 48, No. 6, 76–92 conventional approach to increasing the diversity of use within an urban area. In
© 2017 by the Project Management Institute fact, as will be explained, CPPs can be seen to limit diversity within rigid formula-
Published online at www.pmi.org/PMJ tions of mixed-use development.

76  December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal


Large-Scale Competitive
Development Construction Mixed-Use Precinct
Project Period Key Objectives Megaproject Project
Biljmermeer, 1968–1975 Response to housing shortage. Planned for working- and middle-class No No
Amsterdam families. Design based on modernist principles of strict separation of living,
500 ha working, recreation, and travel functions (Fainstein, 2010).
Canary Wharf, 1988–ongoing Anticipating demand for office space in a deregulated market. Compete Yes Yes
London with regional financial centers, particularly Frankfurt and Paris (Newman &
47 ha Thornley, 1996).
Hammarby 1995–ongoing Integrated environmental infrastructural systems precinct that exemplifies Yes No
Sjöstad, Stockholm’s commitment to environmental policy (Pandis Iveroth, Vernay,
Stockholm Mulder, & Brandt, 2013).
160 ha
Ørestad, 1997–ongoing Attract international companies and investment in competition with regional Yes Yes
Copenhagen centers, particularly in northern Germany and Scandinavia. Attract higher-
310 ha earning Danish residents to Copenhagen. Fund new metro lines with land
sales revenue (Danish Ministry of Finance, 1992).
Vauban, 1998–2010 Deliver an ecologically, socially, economically, and culturally sustainable city Yes No
Freiburg district in a cooperative, participatory process (City of Freiburg, 2015).
41 ha
Barangaroo, 2012–ongoing Attract international companies and investment in competition with centers Yes Yes
Sydney in the Asia Pacific (BDA, 2014).
22 ha
Hudson Yards, 2012–ongoing Expand the midtown central business district seeking global attention Yes Yes
New York (HYDC, 2014).
11 ha
West Kowloon 2013–ongoing Become Asia’s arts and cultural capital (WKCDA, 2016). Yes Yes
Cultural District,
Hong Kong
40 ha
Table 1: Large-scale development project categorization.

The rhetoric from CPP protagonists precisely stands to benefit, and more Sydney can claim Barangaroo, Darling
will always embrace a globalization dis- importantly, what alternatives might Harbour (the second wholesale redevel-
course in which international economic be available all remain shrouded in a opment since the late 1980s), the Bays
competitiveness is paramount for the generic “glossy globalization” discourse Precinct, and the Central to Eveleigh
prosperity of the city and the state. In both that glorifies potential investment and Corridor as examples of CPPs currently
times of genuine bust, as in ­Copenhagen growth while obscuring real urban dis- under way, totaling 243 hectares, all
in the late 1980s, or times of obvious placement and socio-spatial polariza- within four kilometers of the city center.
boom, as in Sydney in the 2010s, this rhet- tion (Marcuse, 1997). Copenhagen, a much smaller city, can
oric dominates public discourse, frames This article argues that CPPs repre- claim a massive 714 hectares across
objectives, and guides decision-­ making sent a globally embedded approach to three projects: Ørestad, Nordhavn, and
processes, despite rarely being operation- city making, spanning cultural and geo- Sydhavn. All of these are within three
alized into official project man­agement graphical contexts, with a management kilometers of the city center and are
processes. process defined loosely by common aims being delivered by the same govern-
In Flyvbjerg’s (2014) definition, the and narratives. Despite their size and ment-owned delivery authority, By &
intent of a megaproject is to change requirement to be strategically located, Havn (City & Port).
the structure of society, rather than these projects are increasingly occurring This article reviews the body of lit-
work within existing structures. How- in a great number of cities and, at times, erature that has emerged on mixed-
ever, the structural change that these with numerous projects being deliv- use megaprojects occurring over the
projects are aiming to bring about, who ered at the same time in a single city. past 30 years. Project motives, delivery

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methods, and built outcomes have been economic competition, this article con- and commodity markets—­ o perating
examined within the discourse of neo- cludes with the proposition that more at indefinite distance away from that
liberal globalization and the increasing sophisticated future directions would neighborhood itself ” (p. 64). This obser-
mobility of capital in order to contex- couple competitive city goals with local vation introduces volumes of literature
tualize their emergence and prolifera- planning goals to achieve broader- examining urban space under the pro-
tion. A thematic content analysis of this based city-scale public benefit. cesses of globalization.
literature was undertaken to determine In view of this evaluation and the Any discussion of the urbanization
the most common evaluative themes, tenacity of this model of urban renewal, of globalization must include a reference
followed by a more targeted, project- there is a need for more normative to neoliberalism, as the ascendency of
based investigation, including a review research approaches in order to under- both are inextricably linked (Angelis,
of planning documents, interviews with stand the genesis, delivery, urban 2014; Harvey, 2005; Soja, 2000). Most
government officials and consultants, implications, and future directions of simply described, neoliberalism is the
and onsite studies. this type of project. It is evident that belief that economic benefits are best
A conventional and summative far greater and more diverse city-scale achieved by releasing entrepreneurial
approach to analysis was undertaken benefits are possible than are currently potential through deregulation, open-
of subjective interpretation of content being achieved. ing up markets, and expanding prop-
through systematic identification pat- erty rights (Campbell, Tait, & Watkins,
terns (Hsieh & Shannon, 2005) in which Neoliberal Globalization 2013). Global politics is dominated by
themes were progressively grouped and CPPs this language, with some arguing that
and reduced. Five thematic criticisms CPPs have arisen from a complex set neoliberalism as a political ideology
emerged as dominant evaluative themes of geographic, economic and, above holds a hegemonic influence on urban
and are expanded on in this article as all, political processes of restructuring governance (Brenner & Theodore, 2005;
the five consistent criticisms of global occurring throughout the world since Peck, 2001).
mixed-use megaprojects. In summary, the late 1970s and early 1980s. This Neoliberal ideologies and ­ policies
these five are (1) introverted governance period has seen the widespread ascen- were developed in the late 1970s and
that circumvents local planning frame- dency of globalization, neoliberalism, early 1980s as both an enabler of and
works, (2) international positioning and and as an urban manifestation of these in response to economic globaliza-
marketing prevailing over the concern processes, the CPP. tion processes (Del Cerro, 2013b). This
of local issues, (3) physical and social Globalization is not a new phe- period marks a global political and
disconnection, (4) generic urbanity, and nomenon. The origins of a “world- economic shift resulting in fundamen-
(5) lack of public benefit. embracing market” have been placed as tal changes in terms of financial capi-
Among the literature’s heavy criti- far back as the 16th century (Marx, 1978, tal becoming more fluid in a world of
cism, threads of more inclusive plan- p. 329). However, it was in the late 20th increasing complexity, interconnected-
ning mechanisms can be found. The century that globalization became the ness, mobility, and competitiveness.
shortcoming of the literature is that central lens through which to under- This has been extensively documented
these mechanisms are under acknowl- stand the world in both the popular in the context of the United States and
edged. When compiled, they begin to imagination (Dicken, 2007) and schol- the United Kingdom (Dicken, 1992;
offer alternate directions that disrupt the arly discourse (Featherstone, Lash, & Sassen, 2001), with a similar impact in
exclusive business-as-usual approach Robertson, 1995). Australia (Stimson, 1995).
to delivering CPPs. The latter part of this Held, McGrew, Goldblatt, and Per- Megaprojects occurring over the
article is, in part, a response to calls for raton (1999) explain globalization as a past three decades represent spatial
more contextually grounded views of set of processes that underpin trans- outcomes of these processes (Moulaert
practice to better evaluate megaprojects formations in the extensity, speed, and et al., 2003; Olds, 2001; Taşan-Kok, 2010),
(van Marrewijk et al., 2008) and shows impact of social and economic relations featuring prominently on policy agen-
that, while the consistent criticisms that have vastly increased regional and das of ambitious metropolitan govern-
dominate project reviews, some proj- international flows of interactions and ments around the world (Altshuler &
ects demonstrate significant countering power. A quarter of a century ago, Gid- Luberoff, 2003). The project of neolib-
qualities. This suggests that although dens (1990) asserted the reach of this eral globalization is simultaneously a
neoliberal-oriented development prac- interconnectedness: “whoever studies response and stimulus to increasingly
tices can appear hegemonic, there is cities today, in any part of the world, internationalized markets and prac-
an undercurrent of alternative ideolo- is aware that what happens in a local tices (Peck, 2001). Similarly, CPPs are a
gies and practices. Acknowledging the neighborhood is likely to be influenced ­product of and catalyst for urban, politi-
persistence of international city-based by many factors—such as world money cal, and economic changes, accelerating

78  December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal


processes that are felt locally, nation- decision makers become faced with an rather, it is the direct result of con-
ally, and internationally (­Swyngedouw ethical crisis in which neoliberal glo- sciously coordinated human actions.
et al., 2002). balization is both the problem and the Brenner and Theodore (2005) argue
Despite its apparent hegemony, neo- answer. that diverse social forces aggressively
liberalism and its associated global- The degree and relationships of contest these attempts by resisting
izations are complex and more open influence wielded by state and private unfettered capital accumulation and
to subversion than common discourse entities are heavily debated (Wiener, advocating the preservation of “social-
often suggests. Similarly, the narrowly 2001). Although generalities are com- ized” forms of coordination. Campbell
focused narratives of CPPs, particularly mon, as with the amorphous term glo- et al. (2013), opposing the Thatcherite
in the early phases of project concep- balization, neoliberalism manifests in mantra that “there is no alternative” to
tualization, fail to provide an accurate many, sometimes contradictory, vari- neoliberal policies, raise two planning
impression of the wide-ranging, city- ances of governance, regulatory frame- models that have emerged in response
scale benefits that these projects might works, and urbanization (Brenner & to rising inequality. The first is commu-
offer. These narratives of exclusion dem- Theodore, 2005). Jessop (2013) provides nicative, or collaborative, planning that
onstrate Yeoh’s (1999) point that rather a detailed analysis of neoliberalism’s recognizes the diverse nature of con-
than simply being a term describing unstable foundations and outcomes, temporary societies and promotes more
the way the world works, globalization concluding that its diverse propo- inclusive forms of deliberation. The sec-
is “a discourse (or even a myth) drawn nents draw on its unevenly developing ond is the reemergence of substantive
upon to legitimize particular political “crisis-tendencies, contradiction and forms of justice in planning, includ-
and economic agendas” (p. 607). resistances” (p. 73) to renew the broad ing material redistribution, framed as a
project under changing conditions, concern for the “just city.”
Narrative Versus Practice resulting in immense variation in neo- Globalization is a continually evolv-
Globalization is an incredibly loaded liberalism. In this manner, the project ing set of interrelated processes that are
concept, which can appear to act as a of neoliberalism has proved highly resil- subject to checks and guidance. Under-
prevailing term for contemporary exis- ient in its tendency to “fail forward,” in standing globalization in this manner
tence. In common discourse, globaliza- that its failures to deliver on promises suggests more agency is available than
tion is a processional fact of life, used as merely prompt further attempts of neo- is often assumed. Certain processes
a “metaphor for practically everything liberal invention (Peck, 2011). can be modified, restrained, or encour-
that has been happening everywhere According to Campbell et al. (2013), aged. New or emerging processes can be
through the late 20th century” (Soja, like the welfare state model before it, cultivated.
2000, p. 190). However, it is important neoliberalism is a generalized term, and CPPs are a product of the politi-
to acknowledge that globalization is a both should be regarded as groupings cal and economic shifts rhetorically
multivalent concept, operating through of ideas and policies rather than sin- driven by less government intervention.
many actors and materializing in many gle positions. Larner (2003) criticizes However, as stated by Swyngedouw,
forms at many scales. Dicken (2007) the reductionist discourse surround- Moulaert, and Rodriquez (2002), these
claims that today the concept of glo- ing neoliberalism as a hegemonic story projects are “decidedly and almost
balization is commonly misused and that has supplanted the similarly used without exception state-led and often
ill-considered as an “all-embracing, term globalization. She argues that not state-financed” (p. 551). This level of
inexorable, irreversible, homogenizing enough attention is paid to the dif- government involvement is typical of
force” (p. 29) and argues that this ten- ferences, hybridity, and contradictory the tension between the ideology and
dency belies the complex and varied aspects of neoliberalism—it is not an practice of neoliberalism and is revealed
nature of globalization. He stresses that either–or, and if we interrogate the starkly in CPPs. Peck (2003) argues that
the concept needs to be conceived as complexity and contradictions, we can it is simplistic to conceive “deregula-
an underlying set of complex interre- more carefully work through processes tion” as a cornerstone of neoliberalism.
lated processes under way in the world. of political power. Peck (2001) stresses More than merely “liberating” mar-
Marshall (2003) highlights the danger the need to recognize that processes ket forces, the neoliberal project has
in the assertion that globalization is a of restructuring under the neoliberal constructed new institutional forms,
foundational concept for decision mak- banner are part of a sustained political government practices, and regulatory
ing. He argues that once it is accepted project striving for certain economic conventions to extend and maintain
as pervasive and self-perpetuating, a conditions, rather than simply “the certain market conditions. Keil (2002)
condition is set up in which its negative way the world works.” Marcuse (1997) asserts that contrary to what its ideology
aspects are clearly apparent but seem- presses this fact of agency: that global- sustains, neoliberalism has always been
ingly unavoidable. In this context, city ization does not move of its own accord; reliant on state intervention. Therefore,

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neoliberalism doesn’t necessarily rep- continued to grow steadily, while falling private-sector actors have been striv-
resent a less interventionist state; the in primary products and raw materials. ing to position their cities and services
interventions are just organized in dif- Alongside the competition for inter- within a globally fluid sociopolitical
ferent ways (Peck, 2001). In Brenner nationally fluid financial capital, human division of labor, production, and con-
and Theodore’s (2005) review of theo- capital has shifted to a global market- sumption, and coordinate their local
retical and empirical perspectives on place: networks with the perceived or real
the neoliberalization of urban space, requirements of an increasingly deregu-
they claim that by generating a complex “What the international firms say . . . is lated and neoliberal international eco-
reorganization of state-economy rela- that first they could recruit their work- nomic system (Moulaert et al., 2003).
tions, whereby the state actively enables force nationally, but now the market is In recent decades, cities have increas-
such that they have to go out and recruit
and promotes market-based regulatory ingly been framed as “growth engines”
internationally. . . . It’s therefore important
arrangements, neoliberalism and its of regional and national economies
for them to locate where they can attract
urbanization hinges upon the active (Jonas & Wilson, 1999). Increasing eco-
international labor.” (Poul Madsen, direc-
mobilization of state power. Moretti tor, commercial development planning, nomic prosperity is often equated with
(2013a) describes the urban economic Roskilde County Copenhagen, 21 January growing cities. Batty (2011) claims
policies behind special economic zones 2000, quoted in Hansen, Andersen, Clark, there is conclusive evidence that more
designed to attract foreign investment & Lund, 2001, p. 854) populous cities are more prosperous.
to specific areas as effectively forms He argues that income per capita, the
of welfare—they just target locations Demonstrating how mobile the labor number of innovations, cultural and
rather than individuals. Shifting capi- market can be, Sassen (2001) lists prom- educational institutions, and creative
tal in this manner should come as no inent law firms in New York, Chicago, pursuits scale more than proportion-
surprise, as cuts in social spending and London by their percentage of for- ately with city size, by the simple fact
alongside the development of corporate eign employees. Topping the list is the that face-to-face contacts increase more
welfare were central themes during the Chicago firm Baker & McKenzie, where than proportionately. It is the large cit-
first phase of neoliberal strategies in foreign citizens constitute almost 80% ies, according to Batty, that are the suc-
the late 1970s and early 1980s (­Angelis, of the lawyers. Half of the firms on the cess stories of the global economy and
2014). Therefore, according to Peck list have a foreign-employed workforce wealth generation.
(2003), these new forms that have dis- of over 30%. At the extreme end of Of course, it is not as simplistic
placed the Keynesian or welfare model the spectrum, approximately 90% of the as “more is better,” at least not for
are not liberalized markets per se but entire urban population of both Abu everyone. In the 1980s, a “world city
rather new forms of statecraft. Dhabi and Dubai, collections of wildly hypothesis” argued that the pursuit
speculative megaprojects, are sourced of growth-oriented “world city status”
Global Competition for Mobile from around the world to make up a would inevitably lead to damaging
Capital and Urban Space truly foreign workforce (Ponzini, 2013). spatial and socioeconomic polariza-
The mobility of financial and human The wealth of cities today, deter- tion, as the growing social investment
capital under globalization processes mined by productivity and high sal- required for housing, education, health-
has exerted profound pressures on aries, derives more from deep pools care, transportation, and welfare is
urban space. The massive economic of knowledge markets than mass pro- increasingly deferred against the needs
shift from manufacturing to service- duction and natural resource endow- of transnational capital for economic
and knowledge-based industries over ments. Financial and human capital is infrastructure and subsidies that ben-
the second half of the 20th century is the more mobile today than ever before, efit the corresponding social classes
central historical turn that transformed but both are increasingly clustering in (Friedmann, 1986).
the global geo-economic lands­ cape particular urban locations (Moretti, More recently, a list of the most
(Castells, 1989; Dicken, 1992; Sassen, 2013b). Capturing a share of the world’s prosperous cities according to the
2001). mobile wealth is foundational to the UN Habitats City Prosperity Index
Changes in foreign direct invest- justification of CPPs being developed shows an extremely varied relationship
ment (FDI) over this period demon- on public land. Protagonists embrace a between population size and prosper-
strate the extent to which the global narrative of international competitive- ity (Table 2). According to this index
mobility of capital has increased. Signif- ness, framing a project discourse that is (it is important to acknowledge that
icant FDI increases in services occurred dominated by the rhetoric of economic there are many others), the most pros-
during the 1960s and 1970s and then survival. perous city in the world, Vienna, has
increased massively through the 1980s The response has been urban trans- only 1.7 million inhabitants, whereas
and 1990s. Global FDI in services has formations in which governments and the second most prosperous, New York,

80  December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal


competing for attention from our parent reveals a socio-spatial economic diver-
Population
who is the minister. You know, the min- gence within large cities (Kelly & Mares,
Ranking (millions)
ister has given a project there, a project 2012). The report found that there is an
  1.  Vienna, Austria 1.7 there, a project there . . . and we’re com- increasing polarization within Austra-
  2. New York, United States 19.4 peting against each other. As I say, can-
lian cities by income, health, education
nibalizing each other.”
  3.  Toronto, Canada 5.4 level, and access to jobs. City centers are
  4. London, United Kingdom 8.6 (R. Mellan, development director at Places increasingly concentrated with higher-
Victoria, 25 September, 2015) paid, knowledge-based professionals,
  5. Stockholm, Sweden 1.3
while workers with trade skills or low
  6.  Helsinki, Finland 1.1
The political strategy of neoliberalism skills are concentrating away from the
  7.  Dublin, Ireland 1.1 has been linked to the cultivation of a center. A recent study demonstrates that
  8.  Oslo, Norway 0.9 planning agenda that exhibits spatially 20 years of neoliberal policies underpin
  9.  Paris, France 10.5 selective characteristics, favoring tar- the geographic concentration of disad-
geted capital accumulation over strate- vantage in Australian cities, particularly
10.  Tokyo, Japan 36.7
gic planning and distributive policies. a marked locational shift of disadvan-
Table 2: The top 10 most prosperous
According to Swyngedouw et al. (2002) tage to suburban areas. The authors
cities according to the UN Habitats City
Prosperity Index 2012/2013 (United Nations large-scale urban projects, presented conclude by acknowledging:
Human Settlements Programme [UN as project-focused and market-led ini-
Habitat], 2012). tiatives, have replaced statutory plan- “It is hardly surprising that a greater reli-
ance on the market to allocate housing
ning as the primary means of city
opportunities will have led to greater spa-
development:
tial polarization, because housing markets
have responded to these initiatives in the
“Essentially fragmented, this form of inter-
has almost 20 million. Five of the only way the market knows—to ‘sift and
vention goes hand in hand with an eclectic
top 10 most prosperous cities have fewer sort’ social classes into their respective
planning style where attention to design,
than 2 million inhabitants, yet Tokyo, spatial locations reflecting ability to pay.”
detail, morphology, and aesthetics is para-
(Randolph & Tice, 2014, p. 397)
at number 10, has almost 37 million mount. The emblematic Project captures
inhabitants. a segment of the city and turns it into the
symbol of the new restructured/revitalized Campbell et al. (2013) argue the
The point is there are many vari-
metropolis cast with a powerful image of competitive discourse of neoliberalism
ables: productivity, quality of life, infra-
innovation, creativity, and success.” (p. 562) with its rhetoric of “delivery,” in which
structure development, cost of living,
visible signs of change are highly sym-
conveniently located housing, recre-
Brenner and Theodore’s (2005) bolic, encourages development with
ation, and services, to name a few. The
review of case studies on contemporary minimal scrutiny on overall benefits.
efficiencies of more populous cities are
urban restructuring demonstrates how Under these conditions, Marshall (2003)
reliant on a degree of accessibility. This
neoliberal policies have extremely varie- claims that large-scale urban projects
requires certain land-use and transport
gated geographical implications. Places represent a new way of planning the
patterns to be coordinated in order to
or systems are targeted in search of city that is centrally concerned with
achieve broad benefits of scale. The
some form of capital accumulation par- marketing and the provision of compet-
premises can be, in principle, correct,
ticular to the opportunities presented itive infrastructure. The literature sug-
but as will be discussed, the relation-
by their conditions, and thus, each gests that much of today’s city making
ship between city growth and prosperity
intervention has its own specific set of is undertaken by delivering a list of big,
under urban policies guided by neolib-
policy processes. Oakley (2014) explains often disconnected projects with the
eralism has been shown to favor certain
that the effect of neoliberal governance primary aim of attracting investment,
groups and places while disadvantag-
skews development provision toward the benefits of which, according to
ing others, accruing benefits that are
large-scale, high-end residential proj- Swyngedouw, Moulaert, and Rodriguez
geographically highly uneven.
ects where housing is primarily viewed (2002), are almost always reaped by the
From Planning to as a commodity for its speculative and private sector.
“Competitive” Megaprojects accumulative potential and that the CPPs are an exemplar of these pro-
state is increasingly relying on private- cesses. They are charged with a narra-
“There doesn’t seem to be any strate- sector and market-led approaches to tive of high symbolic importance as the
gic coordination. That’s something I’ve deliver them. economic savior of the city, embodying
been quite vocal about. It’s all state In the Australian context, a report on Flyvbjerg’s (2014) political, economic,
land. But at the moment we’re all kids productive cities by the Grattan Institute and aesthetic “sublimes.” They hold the

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PAPERS

promise of wealth generation, directly The Five Consistent Criticisms Rofe, 2005; Swyngedouw et al., 2002).
for the protagonists and suggestively for The dominant evaluative themes from Despite the complexity of megaprojects,
the public (Siemiatycki, 2013), yet the the content analysis can be distilled into objectives are rarely operationalized for
benefits are often left to “trickle down” five consistent criticisms, listed below delivery. A lack of accountability mech-
without any mechanisms to ensure that and subsequently expanded. They rep- anisms, such as reward-penalty systems,
they do (Turok, 1992). resent a global perspective from the often results in failure to achieve the
literature on internationally oriented goals articulated at the beginning of the
Competitive Precinct Projects mixed-use megaprojects: project (Bruzelius, Flyvbjerg, & Rothen-
There is now a body of literature exam- gatter, 2002). These fluid arrangements
ining the genesis, governance, delivery, 1. Introverted modes of governance that align with recent tendencies for “flexi-
and built outcomes of mixed-use mega- circumvent local planning frame- ble” urban governance in which a coali-
projects around the world. This section works, traditional democratic channels tion of actors within public and private
looks at how these projects have been of participation, and accountability. spheres manipulate and distort estab-
appraised as a particular type of urban 2. Global economic positioning and lished practices for ends that are often
development. marketing toward a globally mobile poorly articulated publicly (Desfor &
A content analysis of 30 reviews elite prevailing over the concern of Jørgensen, 2004).
covering 42 mixed-use megaprojects in local issues. It is argued these introverted, project-
20 countries (Table 3) demonstrates a 3. Physically and socially self-con- tailored governance models tightly con-
remarkable consistency in the projects’ tained, isolated, and disconnected trol access to decision making through
motives, public narratives, governance from the context of the host city. formal and informal channels, favor-
structures, delivery methods, and built 4. Similar urban form regardless of the ing those who stand to gain the most
outcomes. In addition to their scale host city that encapsulates a narrow (Majoor, 2008a). This suggests that the
and mixed-use nature, they share the definition of urban life and culture. processes and outcomes of CPPs are
premise of elevating the competitive 5. Minimal commitment to public ben- manipulated to represent the global
position of their metropolitan econo- efit or socially just policies arising ambitions of local urban elites (Del
mies into regional and global economic from a primary focus on profitability. Cerro, 2013b).
networks—an intercity economic com- CPP governance models operate
petition using office and residential in very similar ways to the develop-
buildings and the urban space they sit Consistent Criticism 1: Introverted ment model formulated for large urban
within as the mechanism with which governance models that circumvent projects by the government of the
to compete (Beauregard, 2005; Bunnell, local planning frameworks, traditional United Kingdom in the New Towns Act
2013; Marshall, 2003; Swyngedouw et al., channels of democratic participation, 1946. Under this model, a government-
2002). For projects occurring in wide- and accountability. appointed Development Corporation
ranging geographical, political, and was established to plan and develop
social urban contexts, the similarities “We got a new set of planning laws in the each proposed town, independent of
in their aims and outcomes are striking, 1970s and 1980s that meant increased pub- local authorities (Heraud, 1966)—in
exhibiting varying degrees of “copycat” lic access to and engagement in planning. other words, transferring complete con-
competitive urban entrepreneurialism It was troublesome and time-demanding. trol to a single authority to plan, approve,
(Siemiatycki, 2013). Therefore, these corporations were con- and deliver a large urban project.
Under these conditions, CPPs invari- structed, which need not be subjected to In the case of Ørestad, ­Copenhagen’s
ably consist of: the same rules of public transparency, for first CPP, the Ørestad Development
some of the big projects.”
Corporation (ØDC) was formed with a
• High-end residential and A-grade office (Kaj Lemberg, retired head of planning,
governance and development approach
space aiming to attract (often foreign) Copenhagen, 25 January 2000; quote from explicitly adopted from the English New
investment and subsequent high-profit Hansen et al., 2001, p. 586) Towns model (Ørestadsselskabet, 1994).
companies and affluent residents; Although owned jointly by the state and
• Leisure and consumption amenities According to the literature, CPPs are city governments, this was branded a
targeting affluent residents and visitors; managed under introverted, business- “nonpolitical” delivery corporation with
and oriented, and flexible governance models a mandate to operate under market
• Large and striking buildings to symbol- that circumvent traditional channels of conditions. Full property rights for the
ize new economic growth and provide democratic participation and account- 310-hectare government-owned site were
high marketing visibility regionally and ability (Desfor & Jørgensen, 2004; Fain- transferred to the corporation, which
globally. stein, 2008; Malone, 1996; Oakley & effectively became the owner, planner,

82  December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal


Project City Sources
 1. Abandoibarra Bilbao (Del Cerro, 2013a; Swyngedouw et al., 2002)
 2. Adlershof Berlin (Backmann, 2007; Swyngedouw et al., 2002)
  3.  Al Reem Island Abu Dhabi (Ponzini, 2013)
  4.  Al Sowwah Island Abu Dhabi (Ponzini, 2013)
 5. Barangaroo Sydney (Johnston & Clegg, 2012; Stickells, 2010)
  6.  Birmingham CBD Birmingham (Swyngedouw et al., 2002)
  7.  Bundang and Ilsan Seoul (Min Joo, 2013)
  8.  Central Market Abu Dhabi (Ponzini, 2013)
  9.  Centro Direzionale Naples (Swyngedouw et al., 2002)
10. Clichy-Batignolles Paris (Lobo, 2013)
11.  Darling Harbour Sydney (Boydell & Searle, 2014; Daly & Malone, 1996)
12. Docklands Dublin (Malone, 1996; Swyngedouw et al., 2002)
13.  Docklands, Canary Wharf London (Barnes, Colenutt, & Malone, 1996; Fainstein, 2008; Hinsley & Malone, 1996)
14. Docklands Melbourne (Dovey, 2005; Dovey & Sandercock, 2002; Shaw, 2013)
15.  Donau City Vienna (Grubbauer, 2013; Swyngedouw et al., 2002)
16.  Espace Leopold Brussels (Swyngedouw et al., 2002)
17. Euralille Lille (Swyngedouw et al., 2002)
18.  Green Square Sydney (Ziller, 2004)
19. HafenCity Hamburg (Grubbauer, 2013)
20.  Het Eilandje Antwerp (Taşan-Kok, 2010)
21. Honeysuckle Newcastle, Australia (McGuirk, Winchester, & Dunn, 1998)
22.  Hudson Yards New York (Lobo, 2013)
23.  Kalvebod Brygge Copenhagen (Desfor & Jørgensen, 2004)
24.  Kop van Zuid Rotterdam (Swyngedouw et al., 2002; Taşan-Kok, 2010)
25.  Kuala Lumpur City Center Kuala Lumpur (Bunnell, 2013)
26.  La Confluence Lyon (Carpenter & Verhage, 2014)
27.  Lisbon Expo 1998 Lisbon (Swyngedouw et al., 2002)
28.  Athens Olympic Village Athens (Swyngedouw et al., 2002)
29.  Operacao Urbana Agua Branca Sao Paulo (Lobo, 2013)
30.  Port Adelaide Waterfront Adelaide (Oakley & Johnson, 2011; Oakley & Rofe, 2005)
31. Ørestad Copenhagen (Majoor, 2009; Swyngedouw et al., 2002)
32.  Pacific Park (formerly Atlantic Yards) New York (Fainstein, 2008)
33.  Rogoredo Santa Giulia Milan (Ponzini, 2013)
34.  Saadyiat Island Abu Dhabi (Ponzini, 2013)
35. Seestadt Vienna (Suitner, 2015)
36.  Stratford City London (Fainstein, 2008)
37. Southbank London (Swyngedouw et al., 2002)
38.  Tokyo Waterfront Subcenter Tokyo (Seguchi & Malone, 1996)
39.  Toronto Waterfront Toronto (Lehrer & Laidley, 2008)
40.  Universal Forum Barcelona (Majoor, 2009)
41.  Yas Island Abu Dhabi (Ponzini, 2013)
42. Zuidas Amsterdam (Fainstein, 2008; Majoor, 2009)
Table 3: Content analysis of literature on 42 mixed-use megaprojects in 20 countries.

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approval authority, and project man- argues that CPPs conflict with these (Marshall, 2003; Rofe, 2010). Public land
ager, as well as the property marketer goals and exacerbate social exclusion is privatized and the public is more
and vendor for individual plots. The ØDC and marginalization via the restructuring heavily scrutinized than in other parts
was also responsible for delivering and that occurs through their land-use and of the city by cameras and security
operating the entire 22-station metro sys- transport prioritization patterns. This guards with the power to control and
tem. Vesting this amount of power in occurs under newly created powers that remove members of the public (Boydell
one unelected body, and the process it supersede existing plans, outlined in the & Searle, 2014).
managed, has been widely criticized for previous consistent criticism, with the CPPs are commonly described as
bypassing existing planning legislation, justification of project “exceptionality” being physically unrelated to their sur-
as being elite-driven, exclusionary, and (Grubbauer, 2013; Majoor, 2008a; roundings. The historic identity, local
reducing transparency and accountability Moulaert et al., 2003). qualities, and uniqueness of the loca-
(Book, Eskilsson, & Khan, 2010; Gaard- Lehrer and Laidley (2008) track tion are not meaningfully taken into
mand, 1991; Majoor, 2008b; Swyngedouw Toronto’s repositioning to a “competitive consideration in the design of these new
et al., 2002). city” in the pursuit of global capital first city quarters (Fainstein, 2008; Oakley &
by narrative—­relabeling itself from “the Rofe, 2005). The prevailing condition
Consistent Criticism 2: Global city that works” to “the city that aston- that CPPs visually and socially depart
economic positioning and marketing ishes,” then regulatory—­ reconfiguring from their surroundings is a logical and
toward a mobile elite prevailing over planning and investment regulations intentional outcome when considering
the concern of local issues. to become more globally attractive, their competitive objectives. A dramatic
and finally project led—launching the difference in form is perceived as a
Zuidas is Amsterdam’s prime location, Toronto Waterfront CPP with the ambi- necessary component of CPPs in order
an urban hub with international allure. tion to “generate economic activity early to secure their intended global status
(Amsterdam Development Office, 2014) and establish the international presence and visibility, and to convey an image
of the city and its revitalization” (Lehrer of regeneration and economic growth
Barangaroo is the future of Sydney. It
is being created as a landmark for our & Laidley, 2008, p. 789). (Grubbauer, 2013; Ponzini, 2013; Sklair,
economic future. (Barangaroo Delivery The design and supporting narrative 2013). This implies a distinctive form
Authority, 2014) of CPPs enable this by being “made to as well as a clear demarcation of the
travel” as products in a global market project in relation to the surrounding
CPPs are explicitly initiated and deliv- (Bunnell, 2013). A fundamental objec- urban fabric.
ered within a narrative of intense interna- tive of CPPs is to attract national and “Starchitects” are virtually guaran-
tional economic competition (Oakley & international investors, high-profit teed a place on the agenda of CPPs.
Johnson, 2012; Orueta & Fainstein, 2008) commercial tenants, and affluent resi- “World-renowned” architects are habit-
in which “competitive advantage” has dents (Oakley & Rofe, 2005; Swynge- ually brought in to “put the city on the
become the mantra of city governance douw et al., 2002; Taşan-Kok, 2010). map” with “iconic” buildings (Del Cerro,
(Marshall, 2003). Governments eagerly Imagery and narrative disseminated 2013b; Fainstein, 2008; Marshall, 2003;
promote their CPPs as “world standard” globally is a key component of this Taşan-Kok, 2010). Olds (2001) describes
projects in their aspirations to connect objective (King, 2004) how governments accessorize their cit-
into global economic networks and ies by actively seeking to acquire a tro-
acquire a share of global wealth (Marshall, Consistent Criticism 3: Physically and phy case of buildings from a select group
2003; Min Joo, 2013; Olds, 2001). Urban socially self-contained, isolated, and of international architects. Parachuting
megaprojects feature prominently in disconnected from the context of the global architects and their buildings are
more than two decades of research on host city. criticized as being detached from the
government-sponsored place marketing The literature commonly criticizes CPPs dynamics, networks, and forms of the
on a global scale (Bunnell, 2013). as being physically and socially self- host city (Koolhaas, 1998; Lang, 2011).
Competing with the neoliberal pur- contained, isolated, and disconnected Changes in demographics and
suit of individualism, competitiveness, from their context. Boundaries are urban form and character under urban-
and economic self-sufficiency are domes- formed between the new “project” and economic renewal have been thoroughly
tic and increasingly common city-scale the surrounding communities. These debated in the discourse of gentrifica-
challenges such as access to afford- boundaries may not take the form of tion (Lees, Slater, & Wyly, 2010; Smith,
able housing and economic opportuni- gated communities, but access patterns, 1996). Mixed-use megaprojects are fre-
ties. Goals to address these challenges transport infrastructure, exclusive land quently cited as symbols of gentrifi-
are often articulated at the local, city, uses, and public-domain design can cation, with links having been made
and state levels; however, the literature set up clear socio-spatial demarcations between CPPs and intended, or at least

84  December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal


accepted, social dislocation (Del Cerro, predictable “absent urbanism” that can push to repopulate inner-city areas.
2013a; Fainstein, 2008; Marshall, 2003; be readily packaged and reliably sold Swyngedouw, Moulaert, and Rodriguez
Min Joo, 2013; Rofe, 2010; Shaw, 2014). to investors and incoming inhabitants (2002) describe this new competitive
(Marshall, 2003). The manufacture and urban policy as “re-centering” whereby
Consistent Criticism 4: Similar urban
presentation of a recognizable, interna- inner-city development is primarily
form regardless of the host city that
tionalized image is perceived as crucial geared toward investors, developers,
encapsulates a narrow definition of
for cities to gain competitive advantage businesspeople, and wealthy tourists
urban life and culture.
on the global stage (Zukin, 1992). whom they group collectively as “out-
In Castells’ (1989) view of the Infor- siders,” as opposed to established res-
Interviewer: “Are Australian cities get-
mation Age the ease of which infor- idents and communities. The degree
ting this (sustainability of high density)
message?” mation can be disseminated has led to which cities pursue this strategy
to a tendency where different societies through explicit policy is debatable, but
Richard Rogers: “I have to be careful adopt the same ideas. The effective- certainly for CPPs the literature is strik-
because I don’t know it (Sydney) well . . .” ness of “competitive city” urban policy ingly united in suggesting that today’s
transfer has been questioned, particu- large urban projects are consumption
Ivan Harbour: “We were very reluctant to larly the mostly generic responses to the oriented in a quest to attract mobile
get involved in a big way simply because creative cities movement that has swept capital (Del Cerro, 2013b; Oakley &
we were at such a distance. . . . How do
through North America, Europe, and the Rofe, 2005; Siemiatycki, 2013).
we know what is right for this place?”
Asia-Pacific region (Hansen et al., 2001; The result is an inherent tension
(Withnell, 2011, pp. 80–81)
Peck, 2005). The results, according to between the desire to accumulate
Yet despite this distance and self-confessed Fainstein (2010), are urban assemblages capital and social justice (Fainstein,
lack of local knowledge, Rogers Stirk Har- that bear striking physical similarity 2010). Nevertheless, the provision of
bour is the master planner of Sydney’s regardless of the host city. urban infrastructures and the ame-
CPP Barangaroo and architects of its most nities required by service sectors are
Consistent Criticism 5: Minimal seen by public agencies as a crucial
dominant collection of towers. This archi-
commitment to public benefit or factor to enhance the competitiveness
tectural fly-in, fly-out process has been
socially just policies arising from a of cities (Beauregard, 2005). Investment
described as the continuation of a decon-
primary focus on profitability. is being funneled into developments
textualized and universal approach:
CPPs are widely criticized for their poor that are intended to enable and increase
“In keeping with these modernist ap­­ contributions to public benefit and consumption economies with a focus
proaches to planning and design . . . social outcomes. The literature consis- on high-end residential, office, and
architects such as Rogers, Perrault, Piano tently reveals a primary focus on prof- retail projects—those with the greater
and Foster will accept work in cities and itability that inevitably conflicts with anticipated financial return.
nations where they have little understand- socially just policies (Fainstein, 2008;
ing of the social, cultural, political and
Majoor, 2009; Sklair, 2013; Swyngedouw The Missed Opportunities
economic context. They are firms that
et al., 2002). CPPs are fundamentally of CPPs
offer ‘universal’ solutions to universal
problems—a pure modernist design ethos geared toward high-income groups or Large government-owned sites with
underlying monumental self-referential potentially high-productivity-based eco- spatially high strategic relationships
architecture.” (Olds, 2001, p. 150) nomic activities (Marshall, 2003; Swyn- present exceptional opportunities at the
gedouw et al., 2002). In doing so, it is city scale for at least three reasons:
The literature consistently presents a argued, CPPs not only avoid addressing (1) They offer significant housing and
picture of generic urban form and activ- social segmentation and exclusion, but employment opportunities in areas that
ity, arguing that these large projects lack they actively accentuate the problem. are already connected, or relatively eas-
idiosyncratic qualities, incidental activi- According to Oakley and Rofe (2005), ily connected, to existing transportation
ties, and pedestrian-scaled interaction. the growing importance placed on the networks, city functions, communities,
It appears the realization of CPPs repre- commodification and consumption of and amenities; (2) they create enor-
sents an uncritical local manifestation these urban landscapes undermines the mous increases in land value through
of a global phenomenon that encap- potential for communities of diversity rezoning, most often from heavy indus-
sulates a specific and narrow defini- and difference to establish. try to residential and commercial; and
tion of urban life and culture (Marshall, Oakley and Rofe (2005) observe (3) they offer opportunities for coordi-
2003; Oakley & Rofe, 2005). The messi- that the governance transition from nation with other major government
ness of the city, difficult to control and managerialism to entrepreneurialism assets or strategic projects that can
market, is intentionally replaced by a has run parallel with governments’ achieve benefits greater than any one

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PAPERS

project can achieve in isolation. As the for each principle would need to be have resulted in growing socioeconomic
land owner and approval authority, gov- established before project commence- spatial polarization. Many mixed-use
ernment can set, and clearly articulate, ment to ensure that they are pursued megaprojects, including those that fit
the goals and the rules of these projects: diligently throughout the project’s neatly into the CPP definition, seek to
their composition, their intended ben- delivery period. Second, a finer and counter this polarization by committing
efits, and their strategic relationships. more contextual evaluation of the vari- a significant amount of the residential
However, according to the literature, ances and hybridity of existing CPPs floor space of the project to affordable
they are commonly non transparently is required to demonstrate potential housing. In fact, an affordable housing
guided by powerful actors, often outside directions. The remainder of this article provision appears to be the strongest
of government; have narrowly focused begins this process. consistent public benefit of mixed-use
outcomes; and demonstrate a signifi- Much like practices of neoliberal megaprojects by global standards. This
cant transfer of wealth from public to globalization, a more nuanced exami- commitment counteracts consistent
private interests with unclear public or nation of CPPs reveals divergent ideolo- criticism 2: Global economic positioning
strategic benefits at the city scale. gies, practices, and outcomes. Although and marketing toward a globally mobile
This review of mixed-use mega- the literature favors criticism, there are elite prevailing over the concern of local
projects expands on Flyvbjerg’s (2005) examples of CPPs where broader ben- issues, and consistent criticism 5: Mini-
extensive study on infrastructural mega- efits have been achieved, pairing inter- mal commitment to public benefit or
projects and risk in which hundreds national economic positioning with socially just policies arising from a pri-
of projects in more than 20 countries wealth distribution strategies. These mary focus on profitability.
were reviewed. Flyvbjerg concluded show traces of a Keynesian state model, Table 4 shows a range of affordable
that it is not the most feasible projects aiming to “counter the cycles and dam- housing provisions in recent mixed-use
that get built, but rather “those projects aging effects of the market, to ensure megaprojects, from 60% to 0%. Some
for which proponents best succeed in collective ‘well-fare’ and to reduce CPPs are meeting their goals, such as
conjuring a fantasy world of underes- inequalities” (Wacquant, 2001, p. 82). Ørestad in Copenhagen and Zuidas in
timated costs, overestimated revenues, Two areas offer perhaps the most Amsterdam. Others are experiencing
undervalued environmental impacts transferable opportunities, which will be uncertainty in the design and construc-
and overvalued regional development further expanded. They are (1) housing, tion phase. Some affordable hous-
effects” (Flyvbjerg, 2005, p. 18). where significant portions of residential ing goals are legally binding, such as
Considering the strategic opportuni- floor space is dedicated to affordable Pacific Park in New York with its Com-
ties presented by these sites, this review housing; and (2) transport, where the munity Benefits Agreement (Atlantic
demonstrates an alarmingly poor track site’s rezoned land value is leveraged to Yards Development Co. LLC, 2005).
record of projects realizing their city-scale finance public transport infrastructure Others rely on the will and ability of
potential. The five consistent criticisms for other parts of the city, as well as for the delivery authority to enforce. Some
demand a reevaluation of this model of the project itself. CPPs remain uncommitted to housing
development, calling into question the It should also be acknowledged affordability, despite being developed
objectives, planning processes, and deliv- that there are mixed-use megaprojects on government-owned land in cities
ery methods of these projects. that forgo global positioning altogether with acute housing affordability chal-
and demonstrate a high degree of com- lenges, such as Barangaroo in Sydney or
Alternative Directions of CPPs munity participation, such as Vauban Docklands in Melbourne.
Accepting that mixed-use megaprojects, in Freiburg (Schroepfer & Hee, 2006),
and CPPs, will continue to occur, there or that reflect a city’s commitment to Public Transport
is a pressing need to identify alterna- realizing long-term environmental sus- An example of leveraging a CPP to
tive directions that can deliver broader- tainability policies, such as Hammarby finance public transport infrastructure
based city-scale benefits. Two processes Sjöstad in Stockholm (Pandis Iveroth for the city can be found in Ørestad,
respond to the call for a reevaluation of et al., 2013). These projects represent Copenhagen. This 310-hectare CPP was
CPPs. First is a framework for overcom- a minority of examples among more conceptualized in the late 1980s with
ing the five consistent criticisms. This neoliberal-oriented development prac- the dual objectives of financing a new,
would require contextual specificity, tices, but they still offer hybridization two-line, 22-station metro from the sale
both regulatory and spatial; however, opportunities for future CPPs. of serviced land on a plot-by-plot basis
each project’s framework would need to and providing the City of Copenhagen
articulate principles aimed at overcom- Housing with a strategic location that would
ing each consistent criticism. Critically, As discussed, city growth and interna- attract international companies. The
monitoring and accountability practices tionalized markets under neoliberalism metro was constructed first to increase

86  December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal


Jørgensen, 1995). The governance meth-
Project City Affordable Housing Area (ha)
ods of this CPP have been criticized as
Hunters Point New York, United States 60% 17
circumventing planning frameworks and
Pacific Park New York, United States 50% 9 lacking transparency (Andersen, 2003)
La Confluence Lyon, France 48%1 150 and the public domain as severely lacking
Greenwich Peninsular London, United Kingdom 38% 19.4 activity (Majoor, 2008b). However, within
this new entrepreneurial approach, there
Stratford City London, United Kingdom 35% 73
remained core elements of redistribu-
HafenCity Hamburg, Germany 33%2 157 tive policies such as the metro financing
Zuidas Amsterdam, Netherlands 30%3 270 model and a 20% affordable housing
Kop van Zuid Rotterdam, Netherlands 30% 125 component, matching the nationwide
Mission Bay San Francisco, United States 28% 122 share. The metro was conceived as a
means to modernize the city and make
Hudson Yards New York, United States 25% 11
it—and particularly Ørestad—attractive
Nordhavn Copenhagen, Denmark 20% 360 for international companies; however,
Ørestad Copenhagen, Denmark 20% 310 most of its users reside outside of
Green Square Sydney, Australia 3% 278 Ørestad—the site that paid for its con-
Barangaroo Sydney, Australia 2.3% 22 struction. The strategic relationships
between major projects and the spread of
Docklands Melbourne, Australia 1.84%4 146
benefits demonstrate high-level city- and
Hammarby Sjöstad Stockholm, Sweden 0% 160 regional-scale land-use and transport
Wynyard Quarter Auckland, New Zealand 0% 37 coordination. This metro planning and
148% consists of 17% assisted family housing, 11% “medium”-level housing, and 20% social housing. financing strategy counteracts consistent
2HafenCity began in the late 1990s with no affordable housing provision under a conservative senate. criticism 2: Global economic positioning
When the Social Democrats came into power, they introduced a target of 33%, with construction and marketing toward a globally mobile
beginning on the first affordable dwellings in 2014 (Menzl, 2014). elite prevailing over the concern of local
3It has been noted that although it is considered high elsewhere, 30% is a low rate for Amsterdam
issues; consistent criticism 3: Physically
(Fainstein, 2008). and socially self-contained, isolated,
4Figure calculated from current affordable housing residents of 184 and current total population of
and disconnected from the context of
10,000. The final Docklands population will be 20,000. If no additional affordable housing is built by
the host city; and consistent criticism 5:
completion, the rate will be 0.92%.
Minimal commitment to public benefit
Table 4: Global comparison of committed affordable housing in mixed-use megaprojects.
or socially just policies arising from a
primary focus on profitability.

the land sale revenue with which to Ørestad and the metro were part Mutual Benefits of CPPs?
repay the state loans for upfront con- of a series of large, linked infrastruc- CPPs are primarily predicated on their
struction costs (Knowles, 2012). tural investments aimed at steering the potential to attract companies and work-
Value capture mechanisms such city away from near bankruptcy toward ers of knowledge-based industries and
as this can be contextually targeted to an internationally competitive city that provide employment growth. They over-
finance local infrastructural deficits. A would act as the “growth locomotive” for whelmingly do so by offering specialized,
particular benefit of financing public the nation (Andersen, 2003). In addition high-end, exclusive urban environments.
transport as part of the megaproject to Ørestad and the metro, a road and rail However, evidence suggests that the scale
above other options is the additional bridge/tunnel was constructed between of specialization of conventional CPPs
increase in land value generated by the Copenhagen and the Swedish city of is less important in affecting employ-
site’s new connectivity. This additional Malmö, greatly increasing the catch- ment growth than diversity in indus-
revenue can help repay loans faster or ment of Copenhagen Airport, which was try type and size (Andersson, Quigley,
extend the transport line farther, as was expanded as one of the linked projects. & Wilhelmsson, 2005; Glaeser, Kallal,
the case with Ørestad, where revenue The period in Denmark during Scheinkman, & Shleifer, 1992; Porter,
was expected to be high enough that the which Ørestad was conceived is referred 1998). Additionally, empirical research
lines could extend six stations past the to as marking a decisive shift from a shows that the residential preferences
city center into the neighboring munici- redistributive, welfare-oriented per- of those within knowledge industries
pality of Frederiksberg (Danish Ministry spective to embracing outward-looking are weighted toward affordable housing
of Finance, 1992). entrepreneurial policies (Andersen & and efficient public transport (Lawton,

December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal  87


Competitive Precinct Projects
PAPERS

Murphy, & Redmond, 2013). More sim- large-scale urban development. The five Atlantic Yards Development Co. LLC.
ply put, the same city-scale issues matter consistent criticisms of these projects (2005). Atlantic Yards Community
to both “knowledge workers” and “non-­ reveal major systemic faults with their Benefits Agreement. Retrieved from
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92  December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal


PAPERS Dynamic Sublimes, Changing Plans,
and the Legacy of a Megaproject:
The Case of the 1966 Soccer World Cup
Alex G. Gillett, The York Management School, University of York, United Kingdom
Kevin D. Tennent,The York Management School, University of York, United Kingdom

ABSTRACT ■ INTRODUCTION

L
arge-scale sport tournaments such as the Olympic Games and FIFA
Global sporting events such as the FIFA
(Fédération Internationale de Football Association) World Cups have
(Fédération Internationale de Football Asso-
been described as megaprojects (e.g., Flyvbjerg & Stewart, 2012; Grün,
ciation) World Cup have been described as
2004). The motives of decision makers for undertaking megaprojects are
megaprojects. The motives of decision mak-
summarized by Flyvbjerg’s (2012, 2014) “four sublimes,” which influence their
ers for undertaking megaprojects are sum-
objectives: technological, political, economic, and aesthetic. To mobilize sports
marized by Flyvbjerg’s (2012, 2014) “four
megaprojects requires the formation of a temporary project organization to plan
sublimes,” which lack a temporal dimension.
and execute a large-scale and complex fixed-duration event, and increasingly,
We utilize a case study of the 1966 FIFA
this also involves overseeing the “legacy” of the megaproject for a broad range of
World Cup in England, applying the three
stakeholders in the post-event period. These temporary organizations require the
levels of project management identified by
application of knowledge and capabilities from the past as well as anticipation
Morris and Geraldi (2011), refined through
of the future (Grabher & Thiel, 2015). Such temporary project organizations are,
Flyvbjerg’s four sublimes, to analyze the
therefore, complex to manage, but they can be conceptualized quite simply as
shifting nature of stakeholders’ motives.
comprising three levels: the technical, the strategic, and the wider institutional
We evidence that Flyvbjerg’s sublimes are
context within which the project occurs (Morris & Geraldi, 2011).
dynamic in response to change during the
The 1966 FIFA World Cup held in England provides an interesting case
project timeline, creating new insights into
study in contrast to existing megaproject literature because the project and its
project development and opportunities for
sublimes changed over the duration of the project. The sublimes were, there-
research into historic projects.
fore, dynamic—the motives and objectives of the stakeholders shifted as the
project progressed. The realized project and subsequent legacy were different
KEYWORDS: megaproject; dynamic
from the original conception. Because of changes in the project plan, existing
sublimes; project environment; mega-
stadiums were developed rather than new ones built, and the work to these
event; project management history
existing facilities appears to have been undertaken by locally based contrac-
tors. The 1966 FIFA World Cup did not involve a global construction project
and its tangible built legacy is less visible than is the case for some subsequent
World Cups, but its intangible and symbolic legacy is significant.
We apply the three levels of project management identified by Morris and
Geraldi (2011) together with Flyvbjerg’s (2012, 2014) four sublimes to analyze
stakeholders’ reasons for involvement in the 1966 World Cup project and
their decision making. We demonstrate that these frameworks are compat-
ible in the study of project management history, highlighting the particular
importance of Morris and Geraldi’s (2011) understanding of the institutional
level in this project, and develop Flyvbjerg’s sublimes by evidencing that
they are dynamic in response to changing opportunities during the project’s
duration.

Project Management Journal, Vol. 48, No. 6, 93–116 Project Management and Sports Mega-Events
© 2017 by the Project Management Institute We begin with a critical review of sports mega-event literature, demonstrating
Published online at www.pmi.org/PMJ that such events can be viewed as a form of megaproject. Next, we introduce

December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal  93


Dynamic Sublimes, Changing Plans, and the Legacy of a Megaproject
PAPERS

our theoretical lenses, the three levels (Andranovich, Burbank, & Heying, Kellett et al., 2008; Preuss, 2007; Solberg
of project management identified by 2001), although that is not always the & Ulvnes, 2016; Veal, Toohey, & Frawley,
Morris and Geraldi (2011) and Flyvbjerg’s case because of the associated cost 2012). Furthermore, advocates for host-
(2012, 2014) four sublimes. and risk of hosting them (Dyreson & ing suggest that sports mega-events
Major sport events often include Llewellyn, 2008). Motives for hosting might act as a catalyst for public sec-
significant stadium building and related sports “megas” include perceived short- tor investment in local economies and
infrastructure developments. These and long-term economic and social improved national nonsporting infra-
sports mega-events, such as the Olym- benefits, some of which can be viewed structure, for example, transport, and
pic Games and FIFA World Cups, have as an end in themselves, whereas oth- an opportunity to extend the returns
been described as megaprojects within ers are a means to an end. The wider, on investment by hosting more mega-
the project management literature and increasingly global, broadcasting events in future, because of the long-
(e.g., Flyvbjerg & Stewart, 2012; Grün, of these events amplifies the symbolism term life span of such developments
2004), although with some exceptions attached to them. (Molloy & Chetty, 2015).
(e.g., Brady & Davies, 2014), the explicit One attractive aspect of sports Furthermore, sports mega-events
applicability of project management mega-events is that they are understood can be seen as promotional opportuni-
theories to the organization of sports as social occasions and contribute to ties for cities and countries, showcas-
mega-events is less studied. community spirit and the feel-good fac- ing their attractions to global audiences,
Outside of project management tor (Madrigal, Bee, & LaBarge, 2005; helping to attract tourism and outside
journals, research on major sports Molloy & Chetty, 2015; Preuss & Sol- investment (Andranovich, et al., 2001;
events can be found in literature from berg, 2006; Solberg & Ulvnes, 2016; Dyerson & Llewellyn, 2008; Horne, 2007;
different disciplines and different theo- Wann, Melnick, Russel, & Pease, 2001). Kaplanidou et al., 2016; Løwendahl,
retical lenses have been applied. The It is therefore possible to understand 1995; Molloy & Chetty, 2015). This relates
project nature of sports mega-events is why local communities might be sup- to a further dimension: the political.
also evident within sports economics, portive (­Andersson, Rustad, & Solberg, Sport mega-events have been used
leisure, tourism, and regional studies. 2004; Atkinson, M ­ ourato, Szymanski & as propaganda—for example, to legiti-
This diverse literature contains con- Ozdemirogly, 2008; Preuss & Solberg, mize ideologies, such as the fascism
trasting viewpoints—­ perhaps because 2006), although that is not always the of Italy and Germany in the 1930s
of the temporal and spatial nature of case, as evidenced by news reports (Archetti, 2006; Gordon & London,
mega-events and the extent to which highlighting residents’ reactions and 2006; Guttmann, 2006), or to showcase
they can be compared, and perhaps resistance to global sports events such and catalyze economic and societal
because of the differences in disciplines as the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de development (e.g., Molloy & Chetty,
and theoretical lenses. However, there Janeiro, Brazil. 2015; Zimbalist, 2015). Motives focus on
are similarities and we summarize how More tangibly, it is often claimed long- and short-term potential benefits
the varying types of literature converge, that sports mega-events will lead to and legacies, which can be tangible/
to explain: financial and economic benefits for measurable, or intangible/difficult to
the locality and investors, increasing measure (Preuss, 2007). Projected ben-
• The reasons for hosting major sports employment and alleviating poverty efits are not guaranteed to material-
events, including their intended (Andranovich et al., 2001; Dyreson & ize, and as a result, sports mega-events
outcomes; Llewellyn, 2008; Grabher & Thiel, 2015; carry risks, yet they continue to receive
• Planning and delivery of the events; Kaplanidou, Al Emadi, Sagas, Diop, public subsidy. The literature points
and & Fritz, 2016; Kellett, Hede, & Chalip, to the rationale for continued invest-
• Realized outcomes and legacies. 2008; Molloy & Chetty, 2015; Pillay & ment as partly being the intangible
Bass, 2008; Poynter, 2009; Preuss, 2007; nature of legacy (i.e., that megaprojects
Kaplanidou & Karadakis, 2010). It is become in some way symbolic), as
Reasons for Hosting Major hypothesized that investments in the well as the more tangible outcomes
Sports Events built environment and sporting infra- from economic “boosterism” (Baade &
Mega-events are best understood as structure will result in increased produc- Matheson, 2004; Kuper & Syzmanski,
“large-scale cultural (including com- tivity and discretionary effort during the 2012; Zimbalist, 2015). To illustrate,
mercial and sporting) events, which lead-up to the event (Molloy & Chetty, the United Kingdom’s bid for hosting
have a dramatic character, mass popular 2015) and new or enhanced sports facil- the Olympics and Paralympics in 2012
appeal and international significance” ities and participation in local areas focused on measurable economic and
(Roche, 2000, p. 1). Sports mega-events thereafter (Coalter, 2004; Hogan & built environment legacy as well as
are scarce, so demand is often high Norton, 2000; Kaplanidou et al., 2016; intangible outcomes from volunteering

94  December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal


such as community spirit (HM Govern- be ambiguous in their nature (Horne, increased tourism in subsequent years
ment & Mayor of London, 2013). 2007), although this can often be by (Holt & Ruta, 2015).
design. Flyvbjerg et al. (2003) and De Following Holt and Ruta (2015), we
Planning and Delivery of the Bruijn and Leijten (2007) point out that interpret the term legacy broadly, to
Events promoters of megaprojects frequently include short-, medium-, and long-term
Compared with literature about the mislead stakeholders and funders in achievements, both economic and non-
motives for hosting sports mega-events, order to have their projects approved, economic, of varying degrees of impact,
or the extent to which these motives and that this can be a particular fea- tangible and intangible, “hard” and
are realized (i.e., their legacies), there ture of events that is also symbolic in “soft” (including “symbolic”), which we
is less published work focusing on the their nature. Project drift, such as the consider formative to how the event
actual planning and delivery of sports over-engineering of stadiums, can occur is perceived in the long run. Consis-
mega-events. The sports history and from the lure of “free money” and ten- tent with the theme of this issue, our
economics literature place particular sions between national and local-level interpretation of legacy emphasizes the
focus on considerations before and after organizers stemming from the different symbolic.
mega-events, although project manage- priorities given to different drivers (e.g., Preuss (2007) defines legacy very
ment literature does offer more insight should development efforts focus on broadly in terms of event structures,
into the management and operational achieving national exposure via televi- encompassing “soft” and “hard” struc-
aspects. sion or on local infrastructure needs) tures: Soft structures relate to knowledge
National governments often pay a (Molloy & Chetty, 2015). (organizational, security, technological),
substantial proportion of infrastructure networks (political, sport federations,
investments (Solberg & Ulvnes, 2016). As Realized Legacy security), and cultural goods (cultural
an important stakeholder, government is Mega-events deserve public debate, identity, cultural ideas, common mem-
often involved in the main stages of the accountability, and critical reflection ory). Contrastingly, hard structures
mega-event project life cycle (bidding, as to what they achieve beyond the refer to a tangible legacy and can be
organizing, and delivery) (Andranovich field of play (De Bruijn & Leijten, 2007). divided into primary structures (sports
et al., 2001). The FIFA World Cup requires Extant literature covers both multisport infrastructure and training sites), sec-
the host government to create an appro- events, such as the Olympics and Com- ondary structures (villages for athletes,
priate business climate and environ- monwealth Games, and single-sport technical officials, and media), and ter-
ment for the mega-event, and this might events, such as soccer and Rugby World tiary structures (security, power plants,
involve working across national and Cups. There is relatively little consensus telecommunication networks, cultural
state boundaries, and making politi- as to whether the proposed legacies attractions). This analysis was expanded
cal reforms through governance over- of mega-events are actually achieved, by Kaplanidou et al. (2016), who view
hauls (Kaplanidou et al., 2016; Kellett and in many cases, the literature con- business networks as important soft
et al., 2008; Preuss, 2007). Although such cludes that it is very difficult to prove structures.
development could have positive effects, causality for many of the outcomes Preuss (2007) and Kaplanidou et al.
there is a risk of collusion and corruption (Frawley, 2013; Preuss, 2007). Although (2016) show that the term legacy is not
(Molloy & Chetty, 2015). Sports mega- many studies have tended to be criti- just used in relation to the planned and
event projects require “a tremendous cal, it is important to note that others positive. This is consistent with stud-
investment of human, financial and have demonstrated positive outcomes ies such as that of Molloy and Chetty
physical resources from the communi- (e.g., Grabher & Thiel, 2014, 2015; (2015), whose research about the 2010
ties that stage them” (Kidd, 1992, p. 154). Løwendahl, 1995). FIFA World Cup demonstrated wide
The risks to the public purse and to the Part of the difficulty in assessing divergence among their interviewees as
wider economy are significant, given that how effectively mega-events achieve to the expected and realized benefits.
these projects can involve multibillion- their proposed objectives is the lack of
dollar budgets (Andreff, 2012; Baade & a single theory, definition, or law about The Economic Benefits and Costs
Matheson, 2004; Flyvbjerg, Bruzelius, & what constitutes “legacy,” “impacts,” and A common claim is that hosting a sports
Rothengatter, 2003; Zimbalist, 2015). so on, although legacy is a term used mega-event leads to increased eco-
Problems might arise in projects broadly to encompass economic, social, nomic activity (Feddersen & Maennig,
because of project task uncertainty and political, cultural, and sporting achieve- 2013; Kasimati & Dawson, 2009; Lee
the extent to which project manage- ments inherited from one generation, & Taylor, 2004; Maennig & du Plessis,
ment is embedded within a parent orga- person, or organization to another. 2009; Rose & Spiegel, 2011; Spilling,
nization (Løwendahl, 1995). Because of Legacies can include additional activ- 2000; Stevens & Bevan, 1999; Tien, Lo, &
uncertainties, sports mega-events can ity generated after the event, such as Lin, 2011). Holt and Ruta (2015) identify

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that some economists use the terminol- Szymanski, 2012; Molloy & Chetty, 2015; is little consensus as to whether hosting
ogy of “impacts” (the amount of money Müller, 2014; Pillay & Bass, 2008; Preuss, mega-events can lead to increased inter-
that will flow in or out of a geographic 2004; Preuss, Solberg, & Alm, 2014; Senn, est and participation in sport (Frawley &
area exclusively through hosting an 1999; Zimbalist, 2015). For example, the Cush, 2011; Pope, 2016; Brent Ritchie,
event, either directly or via a multiplier Olympic Games have frequently been 1984; Truño, 1995; Veal et al., 2012) or
effect) and “legacy” (the additional eco- subject to cost overruns (e.g., Flyvbjerg not (or at least not to the extent that is
nomic activity generated after the event, & Stewart, 2012; Zimbalist, 2015). proposed when making the case to host
such as increased tourism in subse- We have already mentioned that a mega-event) (Hogan & Norton, 2000;
quent years). mega-events are hosted in the belief Weed et al., 2009). Some writers sug-
It is difficult to isolate the hosting of that they will attract tourism and inward gest that the global exposure of a city or
a sports mega-event as the causal vari- investment. There is some evidence to country can make the expense of host-
able behind an increase in economic suggest hosting a sport mega-event can ing an event worthwhile (Oldenboom,
activity because other factors, includ- have a positive country-of-origin effect, 2006; Brent Ritchie & Smith, 1991; Varrel
ing those from the macro-environment, improving the image of the host in the & Kennedy, 2011), whereas others dis-
might have an influence (as might the minds of visitors as prospective consum- cern little or no impact on international
methodology of the researchers, such ers (Donaldson & Ferreira, 2009; Kim & awareness and image improvement
as their measure of economic activity, Morrsion, 2005; Sun & Paswan, 2012). (Chalip, Green, & Hill, 2003; Gripsrud,
sample size, and geography). Further- However, there is also literature to Nes, & Olsson, 2010; Mossberg &
more, results can depend upon when the demonstrate that regardless of image Hallberg, 1999; Rivenburgh, Louw, Loo,
study was conducted (ex-post or ex-ante boosting and changes to consumer & Mersham, 2003). For example, though
studies). Nevertheless, it does seem that attitudes, hosting sport mega-events not an economic success in the short
there can be some direct economic ben- might not necessarily result in economic term, the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South
efits even if these are somewhat short- gains (Kang & Perdue, 1994; Pyo, Cook, Africa arguably helped elevate the
term. Economic benefit might occur as a & Howell, 1988). Jakobsen, Solberg, country’s image as a growing competi-
result of temporary injections of external Halvorsen, and Jakobsen (2012) and tive economy, and promoted national
funding for new sporting facilities (Holt Flyvbjerg and Stewart (2012) suggest that unity and national identity (Varrel &
& Ruta, 2015; Solberg & Ulvnes, 2016). sport mega-events do not necessarily Kennedy, 2011). In England, the suc-
Multiplier effects might then occur, such achieve the Foreign Direct Investment cess of the 1996 Union of European
as from a temporary increase in employ- (FDI) inflows governments sometimes Football Association’s (UEFA—soccer’s
ment to cope with demand before predict. Baade and Matheson (2004) governing body in Europe) European
and during an event, such as building explain that visitors and residents may Championship Finals reinforced an opti-
contractors (Brunet, 1995; Miguélez & decide not to shop locally because they mistic attitude toward the idea of bid-
Carrasquer, 1995). The achievement of are concerned about congestion and ding to host the 2012 Summer Olympiad
any such economic benefits, however, price gauging for the duration of the (Fairclough, 2000). However, as Grabher
is subject to participation and season- tournament. Second, errors made in esti- and Thiel (2014) identify, mega-events
ality effects (Fourie & Santana-Galleo, mating direct spending are compounded can result in risky “self-induced shocks”
2011; Spilling, 2000; Teigland, 1999; Tien when calculating multiplier analysis—the (massive disruptions because of expec-
et al., 2011). Benefits may also occur as indirect spending from the circulation of tations for stunning and overwhelming
a result of knowledge development in tourists’ money in the local economy. spectacles). A further and related criti-
the human resources of the host country Leakages can be significant if the host cism is that sports mega-events can lead
(Kaplanidou et al., 2016; Kellett et al., economy has high employment, because to protests and bad publicity resulting
2008; Preuss, 2007). the event will be staffed by people from from the displacement of local popula-
As well as evidence for the benefits other localities, in which unemployment tions (Andranovich, Burbank & Heying,
of sports “megas,” there is a substantial or a labor surplus exists. A further point 2001; Beaty, 1999). Whether success-
body of literature highlighting the risks, not stated by Baade and Matheson (2004) ful or not, hosting mega-events can be
assessing their economic costs, under- is that many of the staff could be working politically sensitive for host countries
performance, and failures, particularly on a purely voluntary basis. (Solberg & Ulvnes, 2016); therefore,
for the host cities and countries (Alm, there is an impact on reputation. To
2012; Andreff, 2012; Baade & Matheson, The Noneconomic Benefits and Costs help reduce the risk of mistakes being
2004; Baloyi & Becker, 2011; Baumann, There is much debate as to the wider repeated, the London 2012 Olympics
Engelhardt, & Matheson, 2011; De Bruijn effects of sporting mega-events, beyond plan for legacy formally attempted to
& Leijten, 2007; Gursoy & Lee, 2006; those that can be classified as strictly/ capture managerial experience and
Kim, Flyvbjerg, & Stewart, 2012; Kuper & directly “economic.” For example, there best practice by implementing an open

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access internet platform accompanied Gloor (2006), the participant organi- three  levels: Level  1, the technical, con-
by several lecture and publication series zations simultaneously cooperate to sisting of the operational and delivery
(Grabher & Thiel, 2015). organize, manage, and deliver the proj- orientation; Level 2, the strategic, taking
The symbolic legacy effects over the ect, apparently without a high degree a more holistic view of the project pro-
long term are also important, but they of deliberate central coordination. The cess; and Level 3, the wider institutional
may be intangible and even impossible to swarm analogy has limited explanatory context within which the project occurs.
quantify—the implication being that the power, however, in that it is an empiri- Level 2 is relevant to this study because
legacy of sports mega-events must look cal rather than a theoretical construct. it emphasizes the project as an organi-
beyond the immediate cost-­benefit analy- It is limited in its depth as to the locus zational entity to be managed within
sis (De Bruijn & Leijten, 2007; Flyvbjerg of decision making. Neither does it fully its business and social context (­Morris,
& Stewart, 2012; Horne, 2007). Cynics contextualize the reasons for stakehold- 1994). This has congruence because,
may, however, argue that claims of non- ers wanting to host the event, or explain although a sport mega-event is short in
economic and intangible benefits are an its legacy (Porter, 2016). duration, lasting a month at most, the
attempt to cover up for the aspects of Tools exist that can address these preparation process usually takes place
the Olympic Games that did not achieve limitations. First, Flyvbjerg’s (2012, 2014) over the course of years, and may neces-
their proposed financial or tangible ben- “four sublimes” that drive megaproject sitate the creation of special project
efits. Critics of sports mega-events and development explain what makes mega- organizations within the host sporting
boosterism, such as Zimbalist (2015), projects attractive to decision makers. bodies. Level 3 is also particularly rel-
argue that there are few positive spillover Flyvbjerg extends the “technological evant to sport mega-events because the
effects associated with sports events and sublime”—a term he attributes to Miller sporting bodies are usually not capable
the building of new sports venues, which (1965) and Marx (1967)—to explain “the of managing the project preparation pro-
often constitute the built legacy. excitement engineers and technologists cess on their own, because of the broad
get in pushing the envelope for what is nature of the events involving diverse
Theoretical Lenses possible in ‘longest-tallest-fastest’ type social and economic variables beyond
We have shown that actual realized out- of projects” (Flyvbjerg, 2014, p. 8). Three the playing of sports.
puts and outcomes from hosting sports additional sublimes also make mega- Succinctly described by Morris and
mega-events may differ from those that projects attractive to decision makers— Geraldi (2011), Level 3 involves “the insti-
are proposed when prospective hosts namely, the following: tutional context: management here is
bid for the rights to hold a mega-event, concerned with ensuring the long-term
and also that there are contrasting find- • Political: “The rapture politicians get project management health of the organi-
ings within academic studies. from building monuments to them- zation. Work will be in the ‘parent’ orga-
Capturing the network of organiz- selves and for their causes, and from nization and/or in the environment that
ing and delivering the 1966 FIFA World the visibility this generates with the the project is operating” (p.  23). In prac-
Cup event, Tennent and Gillett’s (2016) public and media” tice, this concerns the interaction of the
swarm model (Figure 1) interprets the • Economic: “The delight business people sporting event megaproject with the wider
scope of stakeholders, portraying them and trade unions get from making lots of environment, comprising various levels of
as bees swarming to establish a new col- money and jobs off megaprojects” government and other stakeholder orga-
ony or nest. In this analogy, following • Aesthetic: “The pleasure designers and nizations. This complex interface involves
people who love good design get from a range of scenarios and requires further
building and using something very research for increased explication, a point
large that is also iconic and beautiful” raised by Morris and Geraldi (2011).

Another useful project manage- Research Approach


ment framework is Morris and Geraldi’s The Case
(2011) identification of project manage- Megaprojects are expensive in terms
ment levels in temporary organizations. of time as well as finance and thus
Similar to the conceptual disaggrega- carry considerable reputational as well
tion of strategy in the strategic manage- as economic risk. Time, political reputa-
ment literature between the operational, tion, and international diplomacy were
business unit, and corporate levels prominent drivers in the case of the
(­Johnson, Scholes, & Whittington, 2008), 1966 World Cup. Unlike contemporary
Figure 1: The 1966 World Cup Swarm Morris and Geraldi (2011) see project sports mega-events or the FIFA World
(adapted from Tennent and Gillett, 2016).
organizations as being manageable at Cups of the 1930s, the 1966 FIFA World

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Cup was not initially conceived or engi- We believed that returning to the docu- committee, council minutes, the plans
neered as a symbolic megaproject, but ments generated in the 1960s by the for the 1966 tournament, and subse-
as we identify, it evolved into one. original stakeholders was the optimal quent publications such as the Mayes
We first became interested in study- way of avoiding the danger of ahis- (1966) official World Cup report.
ing the 1966 FIFA World Cup because toricism, enabling our understanding of • Fédération Internationale de Football
of another project we were involved in, how the World Cup was contextualized Association (FIFA): Records of the orga-
concerning the use of public finance to within the economic and social set- nizing committee, the FIFA Bureau,
fund sports clubs and their built assets, tings of the 1960s, rather than applying correspondence, and plans detailing
such as stadiums and sports halls. We our present-day understanding of the early planning and regulations that
discovered that the 1966 FIFA World tournament to the past. This historical divided responsibility between FIFA
Cup received an unprecedented sum of survey of the topic allowed us to exam- and the FA.
public money in the UK context, with the ine planning and organization, and the • UK government and civil service: At
majority of this money directed toward extent to which phenomena such as the national level, memos and cor-
stadium improvements, although no stadium boosterism existed in the 1960s respondence principally originating
new stadiums were constructed. How- and how far the FIFA World Cup of from the Foreign Office and Ministry
ever, the legacy of these investments that period was captured by social and of Education, as well as the prime min-
in the built environment was largely economic concerns. We offer a manage- ister’s office and Ministry of Transport
forgotten over the decades following the ment and organizational history of a were used to establish their roles in
tournament, as English soccer suffered global sporting event, focusing on the planning the tournament. At the local
a decline in support (for a discussion on institutional context and the organiza- level, local authority minutes and
the reasons for this decline, see Walvin, tions involved in delivering the event. local newspaper accounts of the host-
1986). Stadiums were neglected until Within the project management his- ing arrangements were then added
reforms following several fatal disasters tory literature, Söderlund and Lenfle by visiting archives and libraries, and
spurred investment in new all-seater (2013) offer five categories of project local organizing committee files were
stadiums, which ushered in or at least history research: accessed.
corresponded with soccer’s revitaliza-
tion in England, and which, in turn, has 1. History of project management Using historical methods to study
corresponded with the sport’s global practice project history was valuable because a
expansion and financialization (Conn, 2. Landmark projects and project temporal perspective allowed us to see
2004; Taylor, 1990). narratives the longitudinal scope of a project while
Thus, the 1966 edition represents a 3. Corporate project history avoiding concerns about the presentism
pivotal moment in the history of soc- 4. History of project-based production of much project management research
cer’s World Cup—the 1966 event was at 5. History of project managers (Biesenthal, Sankaran, Pitsis, & Clegg,
the vanguard of the global expansion 2015). Maylor, Brady, Cooke-Davies,
of the soccer “industry” through subse- We position ourselves within the and Hodgson (2006) argue that where a
quent World Cups, broadcast media, and framework in Type 2 (landmark proj- task stretches over many years, a project
sponsorship. Despite the lack of tangible ects and project narratives) and Type  3 is not a temporary organization. How-
built reminders to 1966 (even Wembley (corporate project history), because we ever, our project is, by definition, a tem-
Stadium, the venue that hosted the World are concerned with a single project, porary organization, as there was a fixed
Cup final in 1966, has been demolished within which we study the project orga- end in 1966 and a fixed maximum span
and rebuilt, and was a megaproject in its nization at the “firm level,” analyzing of six years for project delivery. A further
own right), tourism and economic oppor- the P-form links between a number of benefit of an historical study is that we
tunities have arisen since, as a result of organizations that manifest themselves were able to observe long-term legacy,
the symbolic nature of the project. in temporary form. such as 50th-anniversary celebrations
A wide sweep of archives was con- and how “1966” has become symbolic.
Methods sulted, including documents belonging By focusing on a single case study, we
We used inductively based archival to the following stakeholders identified aimed to draw out the deep structure
research, drawing upon project docu- from Tennent and Gillett’s (2016) World of the case, drawing richer and more
ments alng with periodicals and sec- Cup 1966 swarm model: detailed insights than possible from
ondary sources to triangulate and multiple case studies (Dyer & Wilkins,
compensate for the problems of archi- • English Football Association (FA, 1991; Platt, 1988). We use these insights
val silence and selection (Decker, 2013; soccer’s governing body in England): to evaluate the case study, highlight-
Kipping, Wadhwani, & Bucheli, 2013). minute books of the main organizing ing the general in particular in order

98  December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal


to uncover the “dynamics of phenom- data to identify what compared and decision makers’ motivations/drivers
ena” (Maclean, Harvey, & Clegg, 2016, contrasted with the existing literature for the project were, and Morris and
pp. 612–613). In doing this, we follow and what was novel. By evaluating key Geraldi’s (2011) three levels of project
the lead of Eisenhardt (1989) in high- points and identifying the dates when management, to show where and in
lighting the extent to which historical important decisions about financing, what way decision making occurred.
specificity matters—in this case, creat- locations, and so on were made, and We were also able to assess the extent
ing opportunities for future researchers by whom, we created a timeline to pro- to which this contemporary framework
to exploit the differences between this vide a snapshot of our case that helped might apply to a 50-year-old example.
and other global sporting events. us keep things in chronological order. Our third phase of data analysis
Following Yin’s (2003) matrix of rel- We identified clues as to the reasons involved examining the project network
evant situations for different situation for hosting the tournament, how it was of the temporary organization, to deter-
strategies, our study exists within the organized, and also some indication as mine the spaces within which decision
overlap of archival analysis, history, and to legacy, although additional research making took place, and by whom. We
case study. We were mainly concerned was required to address the question found that the headings provided by the
with the “How?” and “Why?” of our “What happened next?” We visited com- frameworks of Flyvbjerg (2012, 2014)
case in relation to motives and decision memorative events such as the National and Morris and Geraldi (2011) were
making, and ultimately, to the legacy of Football Museum’s (the English soc- suitable for coding and sorting our data,
the event. We were mostly concerned cer museum) exhibition marking the although some expansion of definition
with the past, although we also had 50th anniversary of the 1966 tourna- was required. We applied these frame-
an interest in contemporary manifes- ment. Identifying events and produc- works to the data to see what fit and
tations of “legacy,” such as events to ing a chronology provided the building how, and what the frameworks don’t
commemorate the 50th anniversary of blocks of our case, but to go beyond explain. The latter were our unique
the 1966 World Cup tournament. With descriptive case history to produce a features. We discovered that a more
reference to Yin’s (2003) taxonomy, it case study, we observed patterns within dynamic understanding of the existing
was not necessary to control behav- the data (Pettigrew, 1997). theory was necessary, which we will
ioral events because most had already Second, to address the question explain later in this article.
occurred, while the ongoing legacy “Why were the stakeholders interested Our theoretical choices were made
could be observed. in hosting the event?” we examined after data collection, and our research
Initially, we undertook a literature the original proposals for the tourna- approach was exploratory and induc-
review. This analysis revealed that dif- ment, the “new” plan, and what actually tive. There is some comparison with
ferent disciplines converge to suggest happened. We noticed that the motives the work of Molloy and Chetty (2015),
reasons for hosting events, the ways in of different stakeholders changed over whose study of the 2010 FIFA World Cup
which they are planned and executed, time. We distilled our findings into two used grounded theory (Glaser & Strauss,
and the resulting outputs and legacies. main themes: (1) how the 1966 World 1967). Their study of a contemporary
The emergent and intangible nature Cup was organized and delivered (this mega-event was based on interview
of projects was an interesting finding included who was involved, when, and data, which was not possible for our
because motives for hosting can become why), and (2) what the project delivered study because the organizers were dead,
subverted or forgotten. We found no (including positive and negative, short-, although autobiographies were used to
academic literature to satisfactorily medium-, and long-term legacies). triangulate some of the archival data
capture the dynamic, intangible, or We researched theory for an explana- relating to Sir Stanley Rous (FA, FIFA)
symbolic nature of the 1966 event. We tory framework following Eisenhardt’s and Denis Howell (UK sports minister).
considered this a gap worthy of explo- (1989) recommendation to ask our-
ration and an opportunity to develop selves: “What theory is this similar Findings
understanding of a significant historic to? What does it contradict and why?” The Original Plan and Intended
project. Eisenhardt claims that linking to exist- Benefits of Hosting
Our archival analysis comprised ing theory in this way enhances the The 1966 World Cup involved no “new
three main phases. Eisenhardt (1989) internal validity, generalizability, and build” stadiums, and the improvements
refers to the usefulness of writing up general level of theory building from that were made to the existing stadiums
a narrative account of the case as a case research. We identified two frame- were procured and overseen by the soc-
suitable early step in the case study works from the project management lit- cer clubs themselves. As a result, the
process. First we produced a chrono- erature as being the best fit for our data: tournament is dissimilar to many other
logical narrative understanding of the Flyvbjerg’s (2012, 2014) four sublimes FIFA World Cups, where the building
project from an initial reading of the of megaprojects to determine what the of new stadiums was an integral part of

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the plan (e.g., Molloy & Chetty, 2015). even ideas regarding possible souvenir all of the games and broadcast them
To understand the reasons for hosting products for both the public and visiting globally—the United States and Canada
the 1966 event, we must analyze the teams were detailed. are mentioned explicitly—although it
intended benefits, which requires us With reference to Flyvbjerg’s four was stated that any deals for film rights
to look beyond the plan used in the sublimes, we found that these were less should not be made until 1966; because
delivery of the project, to the English evident at the time of the initial bid to of the pace of technology, the tech-
Football Association’s (FA) original plan host the tournament in England, which nological capabilities would be more
document (FA, 1961). We now outline was driven by the FA without govern- advanced by then (FA, 1961). The plan
our findings from this document using ment backing (Table 1). Contextually, identified economic opportunities or
Flyvbjerg’s “four sublimes” to evidence the FA would celebrate its centenary ticket sales and merchandising such as
the FA’s intentions for hosting. The FA, in 1963, so perhaps this was a catalyst, badges and scarves. The plan gives no
as host, was contractually responsible although our research did not reveal any consideration to the potential for prod-
for the tournament’s delivery within documentary evidence to prove it. It is uct licensing, although this would be
FIFA’s specifications; the FA essentially apparent from the plan that opportuni- the dominant approach when the tour-
represented a franchisee of FIFA. The ties existed relating to technology and nament actually happened (FA, 1961).
FA secretary (effectively a chief execu- economics that were certainly attrac- It is possible to infer that the “politi-
tive), Sir Stanley Rous, and the England tive, although it might be stretching cal” sublime was present at the time
team manager, Walter Winterbottom, the data to claim much significance of the original 1961 plan, but more in
wrote the first detailed plan for the for the “technological” or “economic” relation to the “politics” of soccer than
hosting of the tournament in 1961 (FA, sublimes when compared to some pre- to party politics. Specifically, the fact
1961; Rous, 1978). This vision for the vious World Cups (for instance, 16 years the report’s authors, Stanley Rous and
tournament included details of the prior to our case, the 1950 World Cup Walter Winterbottom, were senior fig-
financial plan, possible host grounds, held in Brazil involved constructing the ures in the English FA indicates that the
and speculation about the possible sta- largest stadium in the world, the Mara- possibility of hosting the 1966 tourna-
tus of broadcasting for the competition. canã). An example that demonstrates ment was considered important and
Potential hotels and training grounds the interlinking nature of these oppor- prestigious, as well as an opportunity
for visiting sides were also listed, and tunities was the noted possibility to film to leverage income from souvenirs and

Type of Sublime Characteristic Degree of Applicability Explanation


Technological The excitement engineers and technologists Medium •  Emphasized use of existing stadiums with
get in pushing the envelope for what is one proposed “new build” (Sheffield)
possible in “longest-tallest-fastest” types of although actually proposed by the club’s
projects owners, not by the FA
•  Stadium improvements required, including
hospitality, covered areas, and electronic
scoreboards comparable with European
stadiums
Political The rapture politicians get from building Low (UK government) •  Low: Not yet considered by national
monuments to themselves and for their High (English FA) government
causes, and from the visibility this generates •  High: Prestige for English FA as hosts
with the public and media
Economic The delight businesspeople and trade unions High •  FIFA to ensure organizational continuity
get from making lots of money and jobs off •  Government aim to attract foreign currency
megaprojects, including money made for •  Local economies from incoming tourism
contractors, workers in construction and •  Host football clubs from available funding
transportation, consultants, bankers, investors, and gate receipts from match attendance
landowners, lawyers, and developers
Aesthetic The pleasure designers and people who love No evidence N/A
good design get from building and using
something very large that is also iconic and
beautiful, such as the Golden Gate Bridge
Table 1: Four sublimes of the 1966 FIFA World Cup (at the time of the FA’s original plan, 1961) (Source: Adapted from Flyvbjerg, 2014, p. 8).

100  December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal


ticket sales, and spread the sport into with regard to the amount of covered been built with locally living standing
new territories or leverage technologi- seating and standing accommodation spectators in mind, and which had not
cal advancements in film and television. available, including some improve- envisaged the use of the grounds in
Broadcast media aside, other tech- ments to the seating at Wembley, as internationally televised tournaments.
nological developments were clearly the English weather could not be relied The plans were mostly an adaptation
important as to how the event would upon. It was also noted that restaurant, of existing grounds—the one exception
be experienced and contributed to its bar, and toilet facilities at all stadiums being Sheffield Wednesday, where the
lasting legacy both in terms of the built required a “100% increase” (Ibid, p. 14) club’s board proposed a new ground.
environment and symbolically. The and that television facilities needed to Further, the projections were still largely
FA’s original plan provides a slightly be installed, as well as facilities for up to based on standing accommodations
different narrative to the established 500 journalists with 100 telephone lines. being the norm. Wembley was the only
story of which grounds were selected— Support services would also have to venue where additional seating was
for instance, that Ayresome Park was be improved, such as accommodations proposed, including temporary form
only considered at the very last min- for police, first-aid posts, catering ser- benches to be placed on the greyhound-
ute, whereas the northeast group was vices, souvenir sellers, and information racing track.
originally conceived to include three kiosks.
stadiums. Also envisaged was the introduc- A New Plan
Table 2 shows that the original vision tion of electronic scoreboards, which The death of FIFA President Arthur
was for the tournament to be held at already existed in some European Drewry led to the election of Sir Stanley
14 grounds (FA, 1961). Assumptions of grounds, as well as improved dressing Rous in his place (FIFA, 1960; Rous,
likely gate receipt revenues were based room facilities, and even places for pre- 1978), but with Rous unable to carry
upon data from the 1958 FIFA World match entertainers to change. Security on as FA secretary, this meant that he
Cup, which indicated attendance fig- measures and access for teams and offi- moved from franchisee to franchisor.
ures of 50,000. The plan also estimated cials would also need to improve. A As a result, the strategic thread was
some of the operating costs of the World feeling emerges that Rous and Win- lost, and Rous’s successor as FA secre-
Cup, but no capital expenditure plans terbottom had a vision of what was tary, Denis Follows, started the process
were outlined. The plan envisaged that required to modernize England’s tra- again from scratch after a gap of around
stadiums would have to be improved ditional soccer grounds, which had a year, convening the first meeting of
the FA’s World Cup Organizing Com-
mittee (WCOC) in November 1962 (FA,
Group Stadium Anticipated Capacity 1962).
Our archival data show the deci-
London Wembley Stadium 97,165
sions and behaviors of the main stake-
Highbury 67,000 holders involved in the planning and
White Hart Lane 62,000 delivery of the 1966 FIFA World Cup.
Stamford Bridge 71,000 By relating our findings to the three
Birmingham Villa Park 70,500 levels identified by Morris and Geraldi
(2011), we provide a more detailed and
St. Andrews 55,000
effective understanding of the project
Wolverhampton Molineux 53,500 management of the tournament than
Liverpool Goodison Park 72,000 has previously been published. Table 3
Manchester Maine Road 75,200 summarizes our analysis.
Our findings indicated the particu-
Old Trafford 65,600
lar significance of public sector involve-
Sheffield Proposed new stadium* 58,500
ment in the project, which we will now
Sunderland Roker Park 60,800 explain.
Newcastle St. James Park 59,500 After the death of Drewry, Dennis
Middlesbrough Ayresome Park 55,500 Follows was essentially left on his own
to replan the tournament, although
Total 923,265
government support was not forthcom-
Source: Adapted from FA, 1961, p. 14
ing at this stage; Follows’ approach
*Planned by the Sheffield Wednesday board, not specifically for the tournament.
to the Conservative government led
Table 2: Original Rous and Winterbottom plan: Proposed stadium capacities. only to an assurance that police escorts

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PAPERS

Host Football
Clubs and
Focus of World Cup UK Public Sector Liaison
Level Management FIFA English FA Organization Institutions Committees
1. Technical Operational and Stipulate Travel for teams and Award Reduce usage of Construction work
delivery oriented stadiums’ officials within England licensing national symbols to improve stadiums
specifications agreements for Grant visas to visiting and facilities
and assessed use of brands teams Sell tickets and
delivery and logos programs at hosted
standards Travel agency
Print and execution fixtures
Appoint match sell tickets, Provide public
referees brochures, and Public transport
provision information
Travel to the programs literature and
tournament Provide policing hospitality
for teams and Provide utilities and Local PR and press
officials from post services
outside of
Provide university
England
accommodation and
press centres
2. Strategic Manage projects Negotiate Negotiate gate receipt Develop brands Persuade host
as holistic entities gate receipt apportionment with FIFA and logos football clubs to use
including front- apportionment Front-end development Design allocated public funds
end development with English FA and definition—the World tournament to improve hospitality
and definition; Cup Plan—including literature and media facilities
concern for value financial planning, proposed Travel agency
and effectiveness stadiums at each stage of planning
the tournament—speculate Public transport
about broadcasting, and planning
suggest hotels, training
grounds and possible Plan policing
souvenir products Plan utilities and post
Emphasis on developing services
existing stadiums—no Plan university
complete new builds— accommodation and
decide that clubs self-fund press centers
permanent improvements
3. Institutional Create the context Set the Set foreign and
and support format, timing, economic policy
for projects to qualification, outcomes
flourish and for and host Allocate public
their management Negotiate funds to stadium
to prosper broadcasting improvement and
rights hospitality
Table 3: Morris and Geraldi’s (2011) three levels of project management and the 1966 FIFA World Cup.

would be provided for visiting team matches in the North West group, Crucially, the committee decided
vehicles (FA, 1965). Follows was forced Newcastle and Sunderland in the North that the hosting clubs themselves would
to economize by narrowing the 18 pos- East group, while Sheffield Wednesday be responsible for funding any new
sible hosting grounds down to eight. was grouped with Aston Villa in the facilities or improvements deemed nec-
Each of the four groups would now have Midland group, and London group essary. Their reward for taking this risk
two constituent grounds; Everton and matches were to be held at Arsenal and was to receive 15% of the gate receipts
Manchester United remained hosting Wembley. (FA, 1962); the rest of the takings after

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expenses paid to teams and officials the benefit of soccer and the sport’s gov- landscape. Important to our narrative is
would be paid to the qualifying nations, erning bodies, was gradually subverted the change of ethos toward centralized
the FA, and FIFA. Clubs were still toward the benefit of national and planning, which was fundamental to
expected to stage matches simply for local government instead. The national the Wilson view of the economy. In the
the honor of doing so, with no consid- government sought to benefit from an British context, Wilson’s National Plan
eration of legacy. Indeed, in the first improved image for Britain in order of 1965 meant stimulus and corrective
draft of the World Cup Regulations, FIFA to improve foreign relations and boost intervention in the economy through
only allowed 10% of the receipts for exports. The local governments sought control of public investment, nation-
“ground hire,” clearly stipulating that to boost local industry and improve alized industries, and encouragement
all usual privileges, such as club sea- tourism. This led to considerable invest- of technological change (Tomlinson,
son tickets and complimentary tickets, ment of public funds into the project, 2004), rather than the outright com-
were suspended for World Cup finals and co-option of local industry into its mand and control approach favored by
matches (FIFA, 1963). In May 1963, after implementation. The influence of stake- Communist nations. An important ele-
negotiations with the FA, FIFA agreed holders, power, and politics can also ment of the Labour government’s policy
to allow the host clubs 15% of the gate be considered from the perspectives of was to invest heavily in science and
receipts, although FIFA would not international diplomacy between gov- education. Unlike today, where sport
contribute toward the cost of ground ernments and sports governing bodies, and leisure have its own distinct gov-
alterations (FA, 1963a). The FA com- with each other and one another. Cold ernment department, the Department
mittee started to plan the tournament War concerns, wider geopolitics, and of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), in
within the limited envelope allowed for domestic industrial policy in a period the 1960s, sport was under the purview
them by FIFA, although it would be as of national planning evolving around of the Department of Education and
late as 1965 before the definite final the world (everywhere from the United Science (DES). As we shall now explain,
host grounds, shown in Table 4, were Kingdom to North Korea) also led the the government’s role in funding the
decided. politicians to desire a more permanent World Cup was part of this expansion
legacy than was initially envisaged, as of education and science funding, and
The Influence of Stakeholders we will now explain. sport formed only part of a broader
Our archival research has revealed portfolio in which education and sci-
that the original 1961 plan by Walter A New Government ence were the main responsibilities
Winterbottom and Sir Stanley Rous The election of Harold Wilson’s Labour (Howell, 1990).
for the 1966 FIFA World Cup, which government in the autumn of 1964 Denis Howell, the undersecretary
focused on the tournament as being for caused an abrupt change in the political with responsibility for sport, and also

Anticipated Number Total Actual


Stadium Capacity of Games Capacity Crowds
City Stadium (per game) Hosted (all games) (all games) Utilization %
London Empire Stadium, Wembley 97,000 9 873,000 760,795 87.1
London White City Stadium 60,000 1 60,000 44,574 74.3
Middlesbrough Ayresome Park 46,000 3 138,000 54,307 39.4
Sunderland Roker Park 63,000 4 252,000 107,236 42.6
Manchester Old Trafford 64,000 3 192,000 101,876 53.1
Liverpool Goodison Park 66,000 5 330,000 263,065 79.7
Sheffield Hillsborough 65,000 4 260,000 130,836 50.3
Birmingham Villa Park 72,000 3 216,000 149,580 69.3
Totals 533,000* 32 2,321,000 1,612,269 69.5
Source: Adapted from FIFA, 1964, p. 14
*This number of seats was available for allocation on any given day to the tournament organizers. The capacity available depended on the allocation of
matches to grounds. This was a decision for the organizers, who were influenced by stadium capacity as well the desire to spread matches around the
country as equally as possible.
Table 4: Eventual host grounds, 1965.

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a soccer referee, saw the potential of There was further concern in the leased the St. James Park stadium from
the World Cup tournament for national Foreign Office about the inclusion of the council. Smith wanted to upgrade the
prestige. Wanting to generate a lasting the team representing the Democratic stadium to a municipal multisport arena
legacy, he approached Wilson for fund- People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK— that could be used seven days a week,
ing. Wilson agreed to set aside the sum more colloquially referred to as ‘North rather than allowing it to be the sole
of £500,000, partly backed by the Board Korea’). It was feared that their pres- domain of the club (Foote Wood, 2010;
of Trade, which saw the opportunity to ence in England and symbolic display Joannu, 2000). This dispute caused sig-
boost British exports (Howell, 1990; The of national symbols such as flags and nificant delays when it came to starting
Times, 1965a). The government saw the national anthems would legitimize a any of the required work for the World
World Cup as an opportunity to create a state considered nonexistent at best and Cup, and meant that the club, respon-
lasting legacy; it was symbolic of prog- an enemy at worst, this being the height sible for the day-to-day operations at
ress under the government’s national of the Cold War and within recent the stadium, was unable to guarantee to
plan. This was the first time the UK memory of the Korean War. It was also the FA that it would still be occupying
government had funded a soccer event, feared that recognition of North Korea St. James Park by the time of the tourna-
but it had previously supported the would implicitly legitimize the German ment. This presented such a significant
1948 London Olympics, and this invited Democratic Republic (GDR), which was risk to the WCOC in terms of the FA
comparisons with that event in the civil backed by the Soviet Union. Because contract with FIFA that it was decided to
service (HM Treasury, 1965). of a boycott by most African and Asian relocate the matches to Middlesbrough
The chosen stadiums were substan- states, the DPRK ended up being the (FA, 1964a, 1964b).
tially unimproved since around 1900— sole qualifier for the 1966 FIFA World
attendance had been large, but the Cup from outside of Europe and the Intended and Achieved
gate receipts had mostly been spent on Americas. The Foreign Office was ini- Benefits of Hosting: Legacy
transfer fees. Despite this, it would be tially unwilling to grant the DPRK team and Symbolism
prohibitive to build new stadiums and a visa to visit the United Kingdom, A key finding of our study was that
the treasury admitted: “We have to make and this threatened the team’s abil- as the 1966 FIFA World Cup project
do with what we have” (HM Treasury, ity to appear in the World Cup finals evolved, the sublimes became more
1965). The issue of power and rivalry at all. After considerable negotiations significant as opportunities were iden-
between different parts of government between DES and the Foreign Office, a tified and public money invested.
became important as Howell and his compromise was reached in which the There is some evidence to suggest that
team prepared their plans to enhance DPRK team would agree to be known as Flyvbjerg’s (2012, 2014) sublimes can
the tournament in the spring of 1965. North Korea and the usual World Cup explain the motives for this evolution,
In terms of creating a lasting legacy, customs of displaying flags and play- and the same typology can be used to
Howell persuaded the FA to go beyond ing national anthems before matches categorize the actual outputs and out-
the original plan by installing new areas would be suspended for most of the comes of the project, which were tan-
of seating, together with improved tournament (Polley, 1998). This was an gible as well as intangible. An important
hospitality and media facilities, to make example of a conflict between govern- finding was how the 1966 FIFA World
the stadiums more welcoming to the ment organizations, as well as between Cup has become increasingly symbolic
overseas media and visiting dignitar- countries, because DES had already over time, in ways that were not envis-
ies (HM Treasury, 1965). There were invested public money in flagpoles for aged by its organizers.
concerns about how good an invest- the host stadiums (HM Treasury, 1965). Table 5 summarizes our findings
ment this would be for the public sec- Although part of the original plan, in relation to Flyvbjerg’s four sublimes
tor because of the prolificacy of soccer the location of Middlesbrough in (technological, political, economic, and
clubs with increasing transfer fees and North East England might not have aesthetic). We found the political and
player wages at a time when they were been included in the actual project economic sublimes emerged as gov-
unwilling to invest in the updating of had it not been for local politics in ernment and the public sector became
their stadiums, their main capital asset Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. An important increasingly involved. Similar to the
(The Times, 1965b). There was also con- name associated with the National Plan findings of Molloy and Chetty (2015),
cern in the treasury that investing in in the North East was that of ambi- who studied the 2010 FIFA World Cup,
the World Cup could be the thin end of tious council leader T. Dan Smith, there is evidence to show how the tech-
a very large wedge; there could poten- who had grand designs for the city of nological sublime became more rel-
tially be as many tournaments to spend Newcastle-Upon-Tyne and was at log- evant in the 1960s as public money
money on as there were types of sport gerheads with the local soccer team, became available. Although there was
(HM Treasury, 1965). Newcastle United Football Club, which no major aesthetic built legacy, there is

104  December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal


Type of Sublime Characteristic Degree of Applicability Explanation
Technological The excitement engineers and technologists get Medium •  Wembley Ltd.—“Plexi” roof
in pushing the envelope for what is possible in •  Host football clubs—e.g., steel cantilever
“longest-tallest-fastest” types of projects stand at Sheffield
•  More emphasis on seating within stadiums
than in the original plan
•  Advances in broadcasting technology—
e.g., satellite, replays, etc.
•  However, World Cup driven by technology,
not technology driven by World Cup
Political The rapture politicians get from building High (UK Government) •  Seen by UK government as being
monuments to themselves and for their causes, High (English FA) consistent with its national plan—World
and from the visibility this generates with the Cup as shop window for England
public and media •  Desire among UK government and civil
service for a lasting legacy (see also
“Economic”)
•  Prestige for English FA as hosts
Economic The delight business people and trade unions High •  FIFA to ensure organizational continuity
get from making lots of money and jobs off •  Government aim to attract foreign currency
megaprojects, including money made for •  Local economies from incoming tourism
contractors, workers in construction and •  Host football clubs from government
transportation, consultants, bankers, investors, funding and gate receipts from match
landowners, lawyers, and developers attendance
•  World Cup organizing committee from
licensed products
Aesthetic The pleasure designers and people who love Low •  WCOC and English FA—symbolism and
good design get from building and using branding of the tournament—e.g., the
something very large that is also iconic and World Cup Willie mascot
beautiful, such as the Golden Gate Bridge •  No major aesthetic build legacy
Source: Adapted from Flyvbjerg, 2014, p. 8
Table 5: The four “sublimes” of the 1966 FIFA World Cup

evidence to support the aesthetic sub- legacy, with the intention of improv- and covering its terraces (HM Treasury,
lime, as the WCOC realized the poten- ing English stadiums to be comparable 1965; Middlesbrough FC 1965a, 1965b).
tial for symbolism and branding. with those found overseas. Proposals Everton FC demolished housing to
included installing new steel cantile- lengthen its pitch and increase stadium
Technological ver stands (the latest technology), new capacity (Mayes, 1966), and Manches-
There is evidence that clubs brought seating, permanent facilities for tele- ter United widened a road bridge and
forward investment plans to benefit vision broadcasters for the first time, developed a “modern,” technologically
from the opportunity of public money. and new hospitality facilities, includ- advanced cantilever stand (Financial
Soccer clubs seized upon the expecta- ing women’s toilets for the first time at Times, 1966). By the end of the process,
tion for the higher specification techni- many stadiums. Sheffield Wednesday all six provincial host grounds had at
cal conditions encouraged by FIFA to did not build a new stadium, but did least 18,000 seats installed, a high num-
access grant funding so that they could develop a gymnasium and a whole new ber for English soccer grounds at this
create stadiums that were technically stand seating 5,000 at its existing Hills- time (HM Treasury, 1965).
advanced and worthy of a never-before- borough stadium (HM Treasury, 1965).
seen event. Even in the initial plan, Middlesbrough FC, whose Ayresome Political
there were proposed technical improve- Park ground had the lowest capacity There is a clear overlap between the polit-
ments to stadiums, though mostly of a of the host stadiums, made significant ical and the technological sublimes—­the
temporary nature (FA, 1961). In con- improvements, proposing an additional UK government as well as FIFA inter-
trast, the subsequent plan proposed by 8,520 seats to replace dated terracing, as vention was the driver for technologi-
Denis Howell sought a longer-lasting well as improving its hospitality areas cal improvement after the 1964 general

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election, creating a world-class sporting on a local scale at least, which we explain “packages” on the assumption that a
spectacle to showcase the country. later in this article, in relation to the sym- fan would spend the whole tournament
Despite satire (e.g., Private Eye, 1966), bolic legacy of the 1966 World Cup. around a 50-mile radius of a single
the 1966 World Cup is remembered as match center. There were ambitions
successful: The host nation’s team won, Economic that floating hotels might be needed
people were happy, and  ­ diplomatic Economic factors had significance at to alleviate accommodation shortages
embarrassments were avoided. How- the time of the FA’s first plan for the in provincial cities, but these proved
ever, British soft power was impacted tournament and became more impor- optimistic (British Railways Board,
(Foreign Office, 1966a, 1966b). This tant as the project progressed. 1966; Evening Gazette, 1965; FA, 1964c,
was partly the result of the poor per- As hoped, the profile and image 1964d). This approach, which did not
formance of South A ­ merican teams— of soccer benefited from global TV match the pattern of matches played
World Champion B ­ razil exited in the exposure, which, in this tournament, and did not take account of the allure
group stages, followed by ­Argentina in was the greatest yet. Advances in the London held for overseas visitors, was
the quarter finals. There were claims the marketing and licensing of World Cup flawed. Accommodation bookings were
English had used their influence within branded products—for example, the not tied to overseas ticket sales, and
FIFA to choose referees favorable to “World Cup Willie” range (Mayes, 1966, inevitably, with a range of attractions,
themselves, which escalated into a dip- p. 44) innovated the first-ever World the London package proved the most
lomatic row. British embassies in South Cup mascot. Unlike in previous World popular.
America expressed concern over the risk Cups, the English approach demon-
to British exports and FDI links (Foreign strated that hosting the tournament Aesthetic
Office, 1966a, 1966b). did not require the construction of new We found little evidence of the aesthetic
The World Cup seduced national stadiums. sublime in Flyvbjerg’s (2012, 2014)
and local politicians who thought it As the tournament grew closer, meaning of the term. Construction
would create an opportunity to gener- there were hopes that it would encour- was temporary or for technical compli-
ate much-needed foreign currency and age tourism and promote local industry. ance and economic reasons, such as
drive the National Plan for industrial However, the expected influx of tourists future income. The built legacy of the
renewal, itself a seductive megapro- did not materialize. Many overseas vis- tournament was one of neglect. With
ject. This was consistent with the wider itors opted to stay and visit London few exceptions, soccer clubs did not
failure of 1960s economic and social instead of going to Sunderland or Liv- renew their assets until forced to do so
planning. In a reflection of how a small erpool. The provincial cities were rel- by the Taylor Report of 1990, a direct
detail can upset a larger plan, the FA atively unknown to overseas visitors, response to the Hillsborough disaster of
appointed the travel agency Thomas yet these cities were also keen to put 1989, in which many soccer fans were
Cook, which mismanaged the allocation themselves in the shop window, and killed or injured during a soccer game
of visiting supporter accommodations like the tournament overall, the regional at Sheffield’s Hillsborough stadium.
(see below). With reference to orga- matches were exploited for local eco- Fans also died at another World Cup
nizational theory, this was a warning nomic purposes. Tours of factories and stadium, Ayresome Park; and elsewhere
from the 1960s (a decade characterized workplaces were organized, includ- in the country, a fire at Bradford in 1985
in Anglo-Saxon economies by M-form ing the Vauxhall Motors factory near showed the dangers of England’s stadi-
organizations) that the Druckerian pol- Liverpool and the offices of the Little- ums, which were in need of improve-
icy of outsourcing could compromise woods football (soccer) pools company ment (Conn, 2004). After Bradford, the
project delivery (Wilson & Thomson, (Liverpool Echo, 1966). In Sunderland, memory of the 1966 World Cup became
2006). The idea that the World Cup the local authority organized tours a symbol of hope when the 1966 World
would provide an opportunity to push of factories and shipyards (Northern Cup final was re-created in an exhibi-
British industrial exports to soccer fans Echo, 1966a). In Middlesbrough, an tion match between the England and
might have been far-fetched: There is “Industrial Eisteddfod” event was held West Germany teams, comprising 1966
no evidence to suggest that Brazilian on the Imperial Chemical Industries alumni (Wray, 1985).
fans placed orders for Sheffield steel or (ICI) chemical company’s showgrounds, There was an aesthetic dimension
Sunderland glass as a direct result of planned separately from the World Cup to the World Cup 1966 project in terms
attending the World Cup! This practical but tied into the tournament (Northern of the World Cup Willie merchandising,
disconnect is evidence of the seduction Echo, 1966b). developed for economic purposes, but
explicit in sporting mega-events. The FA’s official travel agent, Thomas this, as we explain next, has become
More broadly, the tournament Cook, sold the tournament to overseas iconic and symbolic of the tournament,
improved British relations with DPRK, visitors in the form of three-week demonstrating the power of sports

106  December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal


mega-event aesthetics. A better way to English language, inspiring the title of held in London during June 2016,
explain this is in terms of the symbolic the BBC’s panel game show They Think attended by the authors of this article,
legacy. It’s All Over 30 years later (Porter, 2009). along with other academic experts and
England’s subsequent failure to again authors. Another way in which 1966
A Symbolic Legacy win the tournament inspired a popular has been commemorated was with the
The 1966 FIFA World Cup has taken on song “Three Lions,” which included lyr- launch of the Sporting Memories Net-
symbolic meaning for several reasons, ics reflecting on England’s “thirty years work, a social research project to record
including the culmination of sublimes of hurt” since 1966 (Baddiel & Skinner, written and oral memories of the tour-
and other factors. It remains the only 1996). The tournament was also instru- nament. This project was extended to
time the tournament was both hosted mental in broadening the appeal of soc- establish a network of sporting mem-
and won by England, and this victory cer among females as both supporters ories groups for people over age 50
took place in the setting of the iconic (Pope, 2016) and players (Lopez, cited and demonstrates how the unforeseen
Wembley Stadium, which has since by BBC, 2016). legacy of a sporting event can be used
been replaced. At the time of this There was a more successful cul- for social good decades later. It exists
writing, there had been a fashion for tural and commercial legacy related to “to reignite connections between gen-
soccer nostalgia, and 2016 marked the another symbol of the tournament, the erations and combat the effects of
50th anniversary of these events. mascot World Cup Willie, conceived dementia, depression and loneliness.”
The 1966 World Cup was a symbolic as a marketing device within England (Sporting Memories, 2017) This is fitting
project for unintended reasons—the only, but less commercially successful because some members of England’s
legacy of the tournament was almost in 1966 than the English FA had envis- 1966 team have been diagnosed with
entirely intangible and social rather aged. Subsequent World Cups have had Alzheimer’s disease.
than built and economic. This partly their own mascots, and the Olympic At a local level, a symbolic rela-
supports Warrack’s (1993) proclama- Games followed suit a few years later, as tionship between Middlesbrough and
tion that megaprojects have “powerful well as the UEFA European Champion- the DPRK has persisted. The Ayresome
economic, social and symbolic roles ship in 1980 (McGuiness, 2011). English Park stadium was demolished in 1997
in the society” (p. 2). The final, in soccer clubs also introduced mascots to make way for a housing estate incor-
which England won 4–2 against West in the wake of 1966 (Football League, porating memorials to the club and
Germany, became iconic—the main 1967). The legacy lives on: London 2012 tournament, but a bronze sculpture
reason for this being the technologi- was notable for two mascots, Wenlock marks the location of an important
cal advances made in the broadcast and Mandeville, although it remains goal scored by North Korea (Wood &
media, which enabled viewers across to be seen whether they will have the Gabie, 2011). The North Korean play-
Europe, the United States, and Mexico longevity of World Cup Willie. Simulta- ers revisited Ayresome Park in 2002
to watch live. This catalyzed the for- neously, the British Olympic Commit- (Middlesbrough Football Club, 2002)
mation of the North American Soccer tee launched Pride the Lion, a mascot and the Middlesbrough Ladies Team
League (Cairns, 2016). England’s vic- resembling World Cup Willie (Gibson, visited North Korea in 2010 (Kelly,
tory was a landmark moment in English 2011)! Even today, World Cup Willie 2010).
popular memory, compared by some to memorabilia can be found for sale on
the assassination of President Kennedy the collector market, both for original The Temporary
in 1963 (in the where were you when items and as contemporary souvenirs. Organization—A Missed
it happened sense, rather than in a An opportunity for this has been pro- Opportunity?
tragic way) (Critcher, 1994; Hughson, vided by the soccer nostalgia market, We have outlined the outcomes and leg-
2016; Porter, 2009; Wray, 1985). symbolized by the National Football acies of the 1966 World Cup tournament
Public appetite for televised soc- Museum’s dual-site World Cup ’66 exhi- in relation to technological, political,
cer in the United Kingdom increased bition in 2016–2017 in Manchester and economic, aesthetic, and symbolic per-
after the tournament, raising the pro- Wembley Stadium. Anniversary exhi- spectives. Also important is the missed
file of the FA’s domestic cup competi- bitions were also organized locally at opportunity to sustain the successful
tion. Match attendances also enjoyed a other 1966 host cities. relationships within the project orga-
short-term revival (European F ­ ootball The 50th anniversary was commem- nization. The delivery of the project
Statistics, 2016). To illustrate, BBC com- orated by the media, with documen- entailed a series of temporary organiza-
mentator Kenneth Wolstenholme’s taries, dramatizations, and newspaper tions oriented around each city by the
comment at the final whistle, “Some articles. Book publishers also capital- Local Liaison Committees, stretching
people are on the pitch, they think it’s ized on the event with a plethora of new the scope of the project far off the pitch
all over—it is now!” slipped into the titles. An academic symposium was (FA, 1963b).

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These organizations brought soc- in relation to the contexts of its time. should be viewed as the pivot point
cer’s institutions—including the FA and Doing so has allowed us to extend the between the “Stanley Rous era” of FIFA
the clubs—together with the media, work of Flyvbjerg (2012, 2014) by demon- and the approach taken to hosting
local authorities, police, and utility strating that the four sublimes of mega- mega-events in Britain, and the com-
companies such as the General Post projects can interact and change over the ing of Rous’s successor at FIFA, João
Office and British Rail. This enabled the course of a project. We also identify what Havelange, who ushered in a new com-
creation of an integrated communica- goes on in a sport mega-event project mercial era of soccer.
tions system to manage the unusual and how this one was managed. We view this project as one that
demands of the tournament. Press Our findings provide an alternative emerged within a particular spatial
centers were established at stadiums view of the factors that need to be taken temporal context, with unique fea-
and city centers, with new telephone into account when evaluating such events tures (Maylor, Brady, Cooke-Davies, &
links to allow international media to as a success or failure over time, includ- Hodgson, 2006) that arose because of
dispatch reports (Mayes, 1966). Special ing the symbolic impact on national the nature of the temporary organiza-
rail services were arranged to corre- identity and status, international rela- tion wrought around it, and one where
spond with games, and British Rail also tions, and so on. We also explain the there was a great danger of knowledge
set up a Transport Information Unit to temporal nature of project implemen- being forgotten (Foucault, 1971) as the
relay information to the BBC (British tation, demonstrating that the strate- FIFA World Cup circus moved on else-
Railways Board, 1966). Information gic and institutional context itself is where. By viewing the World Cup proj-
kiosks were provided for foreign visi- not static over the lifetime of a project, ect in such a way, we also seek to show
tors (British Railways Board, 1966; HM and thus, the contribution of historical that it is possible to answer Söderlund
Treasury, 1965; Northern Echo, 1966a) analysis is to provide an opportunity and Lenfle’s (2013) call for more variety
and a corps of language students from to evaluate how these challenges were to enhance our knowledge of projects
universities recruited as translators (FA, managed. We argue that this requires an in countries such as England and away
1965). Universities and colleges pro- understanding of the dynamic nature of from railway, canal, military, and space
vided premises and team accommoda- megaproject management. projects. We add further methodological
tions (FA, 1964d; Foreign Office 1966a; Megaprojects are expensive in terms sophistication by breaking away from
Manchester Evening News, 1966). The of time as well as finance, and thus, they the quasi-Chandlerian norm (Söderlund
temporary organizations engendered carry considerable reputational as well & Lenfle, 2013), not only challenging
a great sense of camaraderie. Work- as economic risk. Time, political reputa- the hegemony of corporate histories but
ers in Manchester remarked that it was tion, and international diplomacy were directly engaging with them while using
a shame there wasn’t another project all prominent drivers in the case of their archives to find traces—sometimes
after the tournament (Shiel, 2006). This the 1966 World Cup. Unlike contem- merely transient and ephemeral on their
network evidences the existence of soft porary sports mega-events or the FIFA own—that when converged together
structures, as discussed in our literature World Cups of the 1930s, the 1966 FIFA prove synergistic in the creation of the
review. However, we broaden Kaplani- World Cup was not initially conceived narrative of a transient, multifaceted
dou et al.’s (2016) concept of business or engineered as a symbolic megapro- organization.
networks to place greater emphasis on ject. The tournament did not require The argument that sport is a rel-
state-run organizations. In the case of the construction of huge new stadiums. evant topic for social science has been
1966, this was a missed opportunity— The 1966 edition represents an inter- made by Bourdieu (1991), who postu-
an example of interagency cooperation esting pivot in the history of soccer’s lated that sport is a form of production
to deliver a large-scale project, with no World Cup, which was subsequently intended to meet a social rather than
further projects planned. amplified; the 1966 event was at the economic demand. Within the study of
vanguard of the global expansion of the sport, global mega-events such as World
Discussion soccer “industry.” Despite the lack of Cups, which require associated infra-
Scranton (2014) raises the question: “Is tangible built reminders of 1966 (even structure work and off-the-pitch inter-
it possible projects serve as a useful cat- Wembley Stadium has been demolished vention, are a type of megaproject. Their
egory for historical analysis?” (p. 354). and rebuilt—a megaproject in its own size and significance are evidenced by
We examine this proposition by looking right), tourism and economic opportu- the fact that their organizer, FIFA, has
at one such historical project, the 1966 nities have arisen since, because of the more members than the United Nations
FIFA World Cup in England. We analyzed symbolic nature of the project. and because their ubiquity and use of
the 1966 World Cup as a megaproject Therefore, we argue that the 1966 large sums of money, including public
worthy of analysis informed by project World Cup was a “vanguard project” investment, make them worthy of criti-
management and organizational theory, (Brady & Davies, 2004, p. 1607) and cal analysis (De Bruijn & Leijten, 2007).

108  December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal


The study of World Cups and their and broadcasting rights rather than 1966 World Cup project were actually
legacy, therefore, requires researchers ticket sales. unintended or perhaps accidental. Gov-
to look not just at the tangible eco- ernment intervention in megaprojects
nomic legacy but also at the intan- Conclusion and Suggestions is always a risky activity but in this case
gible and non-economic legacy. The for Further Research the government’s involvement changed
1966 project is particularly interesting The central contribution of this article is the nature of the project, which had
because the tournament that took place to illustrate the dynamic nature of Flyvb- already shifted from the original plan,
differed significantly from the original jerg’s (2012; 2014) sublimes framework. and served to increase the visibility of
conception. Developments were done With government intervention, the 1966 the project and thus ironically enhanced
mainly to (1)  meet FIFA required stan- FIFA World Cup evolved from just a soc- its cultural significance. With govern-
dards, and (2)  improve hospitality and cer event into an increasingly important ment intervention, the 1966 FIFA World
press/media facilities. As a result, the political, social, and economic mega- Cup was more than just a soccer event;
1966 World Cup became an important project. We have found that the main it was an important political, social, and
event in the evolution of the tourna- benefits of the project were actually economic megaproject.
ment toward its contemporary scope unintended or perhaps accidental, and Further research should focus on
and scale, and also symbolic in English that the intended benefits either did not the dynamic nature of sublimes and
national identity—partly because of an materialize or melted away. Govern- of decision making within the levels of
injection of public money that contrib- ment intervention in megaprojects is a project. Specifically, research should
uted to its success. always a risky activity, but in this case, aim to explain more recent and more
The organization of the 1966 World the government’s involvement changed complex megaprojects where legacy
Cup was a project shaped by Morris and the nature of the project, which had was planned and engineered into the
Geraldi’s (2011) Level 3 environment, already shifted from the original plan, projects from the early phases. An obvi-
but one in which the parent organiza- and served to increase the visibility of ous comparative study would be to
tion, FIFA (Fédération Internationale the project, thus enhancing its cultural research another World Cup or Olym-
de Football Association), franchised out significance. We have reached these piad, but other case studies beyond
the implementation to a wide range of conclusions by analyzing what hap- sports could be similarly rich, such as
institutional actors such as the English pened during the project and how it transport or military, in instances where
Football Association (FA), the UK gov- was managed. the institutional and political contexts
ernment, local authorities, and national Our study has resonance for contem- have been particularly dynamic, such
utilities. These actors came together porary megaprojects, potentially beyond as regime change. We will now explain
to deliver the tournament with a finite sport, where the political sublime is an how further research could apply addi-
deadline, but the team was dissolved important driver. As sports mega-events tional theory to develop and refine the
and moved on to very different projects become bigger in scale and scope, the ideas presented in this article.
despite the feeling that the project orga- lead time expands. Therefore, the need In our article, we have drawn mainly
nization had developed real capacity. to understand the implementation phase upon Flyvbjerg’s (2012; 2014) sublimes
This case emphasizes that poli- has increased. Historical sports mega- and Morris and Geraldi’s (2011) three
tics in the megaproject sense is not events provide an opportunity to evalu- levels of project management. Used
limited to relations with government
­ ate an entire implementation process, together, these frameworks were most
but also to the wider “institutional” including the change implicit within suitable because (1) their scope is consis-
context (­Morris & Geraldi, 2011, p. 20). this process. tent with the most significant stakehold-
Therefore, ­Flyvbjerg’s (2014) definition We recommend that further re­search ers identified from our data, and (2)  we
of the “political sublime” should be be undertaken to evaluate the pressures have been concerned with changes over
expanded to include institutions as well of continuity and change during the the lifetime of the project and its lon-
as governments. International non-­ lives of megaprojects. We have dem- gitudinal legacy, including the way in
governmental organizations (NGOs) onstrated the usefulness of contempo- which the project has resulted in, or even
such as FIFA and the FA provide the rary project management theory (i.e., shaped, symbolic value. But there are
institutional ­framework for the opera- Flyvbjerg’s sublimes and Morris and other perspectives—­for example, a cor-
tion of s­ porting megaprojects. Indeed, Geraldi’s three levels) in analyzing an pus of work on large-scale projects exists
FIFA’s entire e­ conomic survival at the historic megaproject. In particular, we that is underpinned by a sociological per-
time was contingent on the World Cup, have found that these frameworks were spective of institutional theory (see, for
and this remains true to a large extent useful for explaining continuity in a example, Ainamo et al., 2010; Javernick-
today, even though the main income project, but less so change. We have Will & Scott, 2010; Scott, Levitt, & Orr,
streams now come from sponsorship also found that the main benefits of the 2011). Here, conception of institutional

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Dynamic Sublimes, Changing Plans, and the Legacy of a Megaproject
PAPERS

theory, which “attends to the deeper and with at least a US$65 million investment Levitt, Artto, and Kujala (2011) identify
more resilient aspects of social struc- in transport and hotel infrastructure leadership, teamwork, and risk manage-
ture” (Scott, 2005, p.  460), has adapted (Tennent & Gillett, 2016). Indeed, the ment as areas for future research, but
Scott’s (1995) pillars framework, which 2022 FIFA World Cup project is suffi- perhaps most interesting in terms of the
emphasizes three main elements of ciently globalized for the project to act as symbolic legacy for sport megaprojects
institutions—­ they are regulative, nor- an opportunity to import procurement might be trust and shared project cul-
mative, and cultural–­cognitive. Put sim- accreditations from overseas (Kaplanidou ture. The creation of new group identi-
ply, “institutions lead to regularized or et al., 2016). Specifically, we identify the ties, symbols, and collective practices
homogenous behaviour within a group” following future research directions: specific to the project team in sports
(­Mahalingam & Levitt, 2007, p.  523) as mega-event projects raises certain
“a dominant institutional form will over- • How do national or organizational cul- questions, such as the following:
come a weaker one” (Mahalingam & tures affect sports governing bodies such
Levitt, 2007, p. 526). as FIFA and other global sporting bodies • To what extent does a shared culture
The institutional conception of an (e.g., International Olympic Committee develop within a project organization,
organization’s context appears broader (IOC)), continental confederations (e.g., especially in relation to Morris and
than in the frameworks of Flyvbjerg and UEFA), and national associations (e.g., Geraldi’s (2011) three levels of project
Morris and Geraldi. Scott (2011) proposes English Football Association, United management?
that institutional perspectives can help States Soccer Federation)? • How long does this take to achieve
inform and guide decision making by • How do national or organizational cul- good performance and how can it be
important project stakeholders, includ- tures affect the way these bodies work accelerated?
ing “governments, oversight bodies, con- with one another and with external • How can the quality of output be
sumers of services, community members, stakeholders such as governments, optimized?
and interest groups” (p.  8). This broader sponsors, construction firms, the media,
sociological institutional perspective has and other stakeholders? Project management and insti-
been applied to global projects concern- • How does the institutional perspective tutional theory has tended to take a
ing engineering projects focusing on built affect the project sublimes for hosting snapshot approach—this is where his-
environment and infrastructure develop- sports megaprojects? toric studies are potentially useful;
ment and does not appear to fully reflect • How do the institutional factors affect whereas longitudinal studies require
or explain the findings that emerged the perceived legacy of hosting sport- the researcher to wait for something
from our data relating to the 1966 FIFA ing events? Is legacy perceived differ- to happen, historic studies such as the
World Cup. There is, however, potential ently by different stakeholder groups case presented in this article allow us to
for applying institutional theory to other depending upon their cultural atti- look at a temporal run of data to analyze
historic cases, and also to recent sports tudes, beliefs, and so on? the evolution and legacy of a project
mega-events such as the London 2012 over the medium to long term—in our
Olympics, or contemporary or future Hofstede’s (1993) cultural beliefs case, over six decades. For example,
FIFA World Cups, which from the bidding include the most deep-set and “slow a process research approach could be
stage onward explicitly place more moving” of the institutional elements. applied to chart events, activities, and
emphasis on legacy for a wider scope of They connect to deeper “background” choices, and the involvement of indi-
stakeholders than was evident from our assumptions taken for granted by their viduals and organizations within the
findings of the 1966 tournament. This leg- adherents, including expectations of project organization, to shed more light
acy has often involved investment in new power distance, uncertainly avoidance, on the sequence of events and dynamics
infrastructure and the built environment. masculinity, and long-term orienta- among the various actors as they inter-
For instance, Germany, which hosted the tion (Campbell, 2004). So, institutional pret and react to events in World Cup
2006 World Cup, already had sufficient theory helps us understand how and projects (Langley, 1999).
stadiums to host the tournament, but why things work the way they do. For This research agenda has the poten-
public funding was lavished upon infra- example, conflicting timing norms tial to help further integrate sport, his-
structure, including a new central rail- can lead to temporal misfits on global tory, and project management research
way station in Berlin. The 2010 World projects (Dille & Söderlund, 2011, into mainstream international manage-
Cup in South Africa and the 2014 edi- 2013); institutional theory could help ment theory areas. Following Engwall’s
tion in Brazil also involved considerable us more easily coordinate norms within (2003) postulation that projects are
investment in stadiums and public infra- sporting megaproject teams to fit the nested within their historical and orga-
structure, and for the 2022  tournament, requirements of the sporting calendar, nizational contexts, we propose further
host Qatar has promised 9 to 12 stadiums TV broadcasts, and so on. Orr, Scott, research to identify the evolution and

110  December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal


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The Times. (1965a). Government aid Western Centre for Economic Research but much of his work has focused on organizational
pledged for World Cup: Vital to improve Information Bulletin, 16, 1–15. networks, relationships, and interaction. In addition
facilities. The Times, 5. Weed, M., Coren, E., Fiore, J., Mansfield, to studying contemporary contexts, Dr Gillett has
The Times. (1965b). £45m for sport this L., Wellard, I., Chatziefstathiou, D., & a keen interest in management history, and is a
year. The Times, 7. Dowse, S. (2009). A systematic review founding committee member of the Management and
Tomlinson, J. (2004). Economic policy. of the evidence base for developing Business History Special Interest Group of the British
Manchester, England: Manchester a physical activity and health legacy Academy of Management. He can be contacted at
University Press. from the London 2012 Olympic and Alex.gillett@york.ac.uk
Truño, E. (1995). Barcelona: City of Paralympic Games. London, England:
sport. In M. de Moragas & M. Botella United Kingdom Department of Health.
Dr. Kevin D. Tennent is Lecturer in Management
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sporting, economic and communications making of modern management: British United Kingdom. His research focuses on the themes
impact of Barcelona ’92 (pp. 43–56). management in historical perspective. of governance and strategy in management history,
Barcelona, Spain: Servei de Publicacions Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. across the fields of sport, international business,
de la UAB. Wood, J., & Gabie, N. (2011). The the music industry, and transport. He is founding
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events and megaprojects. EADI Chance 2 Recapturing place, memory and Special Interest Group of the British Academy of
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Institutes (EADI), Bonn, Germany. 1186–1202. He can be contacted at Kevin.tennent@york.ac.uk

116  December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal


PAPERS Symbols, Sublimes, Solutions, and
Problems: A Garbage Can Model
of Megaprojects
John Steen, UQ Business School, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
Jerad A. Ford, CSIRO Futures, Brisbane, Australia
Martie-Louise Verreynne, UQ Business School, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

ABSTRACT ■ INTRODUCTION

M
egaprojects are an important vehicle for the development of
In this article, we deploy Cohen, March, and
organizations, cities, and nations. Many of these projects are now
Olsen’s (1972) garbage can model of decision
so large that they have been called ‘terraprojects’ (Flyvbjerg, 2014).
making to produce a different lens on the per-
While the lure of these ventures is the potential transformation
formance of megaprojects. Using a sample
they bring to businesses that benefit from the investments and governments in
of firms involved in hydrocarbon megaproj-
terms of taxes, royalties, and economic development, there is also significant
ects, we show that the problems given the
risk. The poor track record of megaproject performance is well documented,
most public attention by the industry are
with Flyvbjerg (2014, p. 11) pointedly summarizing it as “over time, over budget,
different from those responsible for bud-
over and over again.” The paradox is that even with this history, megaprojects
get overruns. Furthermore, the attribution of
continue to be sanctioned and often with the same risk factors. This cycle
reasons for exceeding project budget differs
continues and the frequent failure to learn is an important phenomenon for
between project owners and supply chain
both academics and practitioners to investigate.
firms. This is consistent with garbage can
Clearly, rational choice models of planning and decision making have
model predictions around problem latency
limited utility in explaining the recurrent problems of complex megaprojects.
when the multifaceted symbolism of these
In challenging the rational planning model, Stinchcombe and Heimer (1985)
projects drives divergent prioritization of
suggested that all large projects have elements of unforeseen problems and
problems in project execution.
opportunities and are more akin to innovations. Indeed, the view of ratio-
nal optimization in project management has been recently challenged by a
KEYWORDS: megaprojects; garbage can
more emergent/adaptive view (Brady, Davies, & Nightingale, 2012; Davies,
model; problem solving; oil and gas
2014; Lenfle & Loch, 2010), and Flyvbjerg has been central in explaining the
apparent irrationality of megaproject planning with concepts from behavioral
economics (Flyvbjerg, Bruzelius, & Rothengatter, 2003).
A behavioral psychology lens can certainly challenge traditional ratio-
nal decision assumptions (e.g., Flyvbjerg et al., 2003; Flyvbjerg, Garbuio, &
Lovallo, 2009; Kahneman, 2012). However, there is some difficulty in applying
theories of individual decision processes to megaprojects that are temporal
phenomena involving a vast number of decision makers within many orga-
nizations (Baum & Ingram, 2002; Davies, Dodgson, & Gann, 2016; Molloy &
Chetty, 2015; Steen & Kastelle, 2012).
Individuals are subject to optimism, availability, and search biases but
how can megaprojects have cognitive bias? Although the cognitive bias of
project managers exists, there is also a milieu of complex organizational
processes that are at work. It follows, therefore, that purely cognitive expla-
nations of actions in large, complex projects have limited explanatory power.
In their review of the strategic decision-making literature, Eisenhardt and
Project Management Journal, Vol. 48, No. 6, 117–131 Zbaracki (1992) conclude that although decision makers are boundedly ratio-
© 2017 by the Project Management Institute nal, power wins battles of choice and chance matters. Agency is therefore a
Published online at www.pmi.org/PMJ distributed and emergent property that emerges from organizing processes

December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal  117


Symbols, Sublimes, Solutions, and Problems: A Garbage Can Model of Megaprojects
PAPERS

rather than residing with actors (Law, solutions involved in the design and (Cyert & March, 1963), the extension
1992; Steen, Coopmans, & Whyte, 2006). delivery of the project from different that the GCM provides revolves around
Not only is agency distributed within perspectives as well. dynamism, temporality, and ambigu-
megaprojects, the actors themselves ity. Fluid participation, multiple and
frequently change during the long Literature Review unpredictable decision points, and the
design and construction period, which The Garbage Can Model of Decision integration of these observations are
may last for several years (Brookes, Making important features of the model (Jann,
Sage, Dainty, Locatelli, & Whyte, 2017). One influential model of organizational 2015; Sager & Rielle, 2013).
Project manager turnover in organiza- decision making that goes beyond indi- The GCM has been applied using var-
tions is highest during project execu- vidual agents as the locus of decision ious organizational research methods,
tion, and the senior managers at the making is Cohen, March, and Olsen’s including simulations, case studies, and
end of the project may be different garbage can model (GCM) (Cohen et al., field studies (Cohen, March, & Olsen,
from those in the beginning (Parker & 1972; Eisenhardt & Zbaracki, 1992). In 2012; Jann, 2015; Lomi & Harrison,
Skitmore, 2005). this model, an organization is “. . . a 2012; Magjuka, 1988; Masuch & LaPotin,
Understanding decisions at the level collection of choices looking for prob- 1989; Pinfield, 1986). An important crit-
of megaprojects means greater con- lems, issues and feelings looking for icism of the original model is that it
sideration of political, institutional, decision situations in which they might lacks consideration of organizational
and psychosocial processes (Flyvbjerg, be aired, solutions looking for issues structure and control processes and
2005; Pinto, 2000; Saint-Macary & Ika, to which they might be the answer, therefore is a very atypical represen-
2015; Williams & Samset, 2010). The and decision-makers looking for work” tation of organizations (Perrow, 1977;
socio-technically constructed dimen- (Cohen et al., 1972, p. 2). The formal Sager & Rielle, 2013). However, Padgett
sion of organizational problems and articulation of the original GCM is rela- (1980) published a similar simulation to
decisions is accentuated in megaproj- tively simple with interrelations among the original GCM paper (Cohen et al.,
ects because of their sheer size and the problems, solutions, participants, and 1972) but included management vari-
involvement of multiple stakeholders choice opportunities that occur over ables such as hierarchical differentia-
and technologies (Maylor, Turner, & time. Problems can be ambiguous with tion, standard operating procedures,
Murray-Webster, 2013; Molloy & Chetty, goals often discovered through the and centralized control and showed
2015). Within these projects, there will decision-making process. Solutions are that garbage can decision-making pro-
be differences in dominant logics and potential answers looking for prob- cesses could still operate under these
discourses, not only among the vari- lems. Causal relationships are unclear, conditions.
ous stakeholders, but also within the and the connection between means
organizations responsible for deliver- and ends is not well defined because Megaprojects as Garbage Cans
ing the project (Saint-Macary & Ika, the connection is unclear. Participants Applying the GCM to a megaproject
2015; van Marrewijk, Ybema, Smits, in the decision-making process come means to reorientate from a rational
Clegg, & Pitsis, 2016). Flyvbjerg (2014), and go and their focus of attention is decision-making process that posits a
following Frick (2008), alludes to the unstable (Cohen et al., 1972; Levitt particular order of events to one that con-
bias that megaproject decision mak- & Nass, 1989; Magjuka, 1988). Prob- siders uncertainty, unexpected events,
ers face due to the seductive power of lems attach themselves to choices and and complex processes that connect
‘sublimes,’ such as the technological the solutions absorb energy from the solutions to problems. This fits with
sublime—”the rapture engineers and actors, which affects the quantity of the activities within a megaproject, in
technologists get from building large problem-solving energy that is avail- that outcomes are largely dependent
and innovative projects” (Flyvbjerg, able in the system (Lomi & Harrison, on those involved in the decision, and
2014, p. 8). Other forms of sublimes 2012). those attendant to that particular deci-
include public visibility for politicians, The garbage can metaphor in the sion vary greatly depending on the situ-
economic sublimes such as large mon- model originates from the idea that ation (Brookes et al., 2017; Cohen et al.,
etary deals for business people, and an choice opportunities are garbage cans 2012).
aesthetic sublime in the guise of beauty into which actors place problems and This decision-making process is very
for designers and architects (Flyvbjerg, solutions. The mix of garbage in a sin- different from the simple linear model
2012, 2014). Different agents may there- gle can depends on the availability of in which a series of choices are consid-
fore view the megaproject as a symbol alternative cans and the rate that the ered, examined as to their consequences
of technical expertise, political power, ‘garbage’ is being deposited and cleared and alignment with predetermined
or economic strength, and conse- (Jann, 2015). Although based in the objectives, which then leads to a deci-
quently they will see the problems and Carnegie School of bounded rationality sion (Cohen et al., 1972; Eisenhardt &

118  December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal


Zbaracki, 1992). As applied to megaproj- problems identified by businesses that research opportunities for agent-based
ects, the tenets of GCM posit that deci- are attributed to megaproject delays simulation in megaproject research.
sions are more likely to be the aftereffects and cost overruns in the Australian oil
of accidental collisions between oppor- and gas industry. By comparing media The Case of Australian
tunities to make choices (extreme in reports from business and industry Liquefied Natural Gas
the megaproject case due to extensive associations with survey data, we show Megaprojects: Symbols,
stakeholder and community interfaces); that the large operator companies who Sublimes, Solutions, and
solutions that are looking for problems own the megaproject focus their atten- Problems
to solve (including technologies and ser- tion on external regulatory issues that The Australian gas industry has long been
vices); inconsistent participants (firms, involve actors such as the government challenged by having vast reserves and a
who throughout the project will have and labor unions. However, the prob- small local market. As gas prices rose after
varying influence and motivations to lems that are identified by managers of 2005, liquefying this gas and shipping it
engage in decision making); and prob- service companies who are construct- to international customers became eco-
lems, which may arise from nearly infi- ing the project are actually quite dif- nomically feasible. Large global oil com-
nite loci (e.g., conflict between firms, ferent and relate more closely to the panies either acquired smaller Australian
stakeholder management, technologi- performance of the project. From a companies or formed joint ventures with
cal interactions, and weather delays) rational choice perspective this is hard other local and international companies
(Eisenhardt & Zbaracki, 1992; Hellgren & to understand, but from a GCM view- to access reserves and capital. Even for
Stjernberg, 1995; Stinchcombe & Heimer, point we can see this outcome as a the size of these companies, the cost of
1985). result of conflicting agendas and solu- these projects was significant at between
The GCM model has the poten- tions to a stream of multiple problems US$23 billion and US$60 billion (Ford,
tial to explain the frequently observed over time. Steen, & Verreynne, 2014).
disconnect between problems and This article now provides back- For some of these companies, the
solutions in megaprojects through an ground on the research setting—in our investment represented the business
organizational, rather than cognitive, case, the Australian oil and gas indus- sublime of a strategic transformation
theory of decision making. Further- try. We describe the context and pro- and a new growth strategy and at the
more, while psychological biases have vide a description of the method used same time, technical breakthroughs in
been deployed to explain the front- to capture the public narrative that extracting gas from coal was symbolic
end design and sanction of (mostly surrounded the problems facing the of the engineering expertise of these
public sector) megaprojects, there has industry at the time of our study. The companies. In the East Coast Australian
been less attention paid to decision- article then provides an overview of coalfields, three projects competed in
making processes and problem solv- the GCM and then shows how it can a race to be the first to ship liquefied
ing through construction to completion be applied to a megaproject context natural gas (LNG) cargo. By 2012, over
(Brookes et al., 2017; Olaniran, Love, where the symbolism of these proj- US$220 billion had been committed to
Edwards, Olatunji, & Matthews, 2016). ects generates different motivations for LNG megaprojects in Australia.
As we shall argue, this is where GCM undertaking them. Based on the GCM, However, soon after these projects
has particular utility in providing expla- we advance propositions of how prob- commenced, delays and cost overruns
nations for decision-making processes lems arise, which reflect the underlying began to emerge (Chambers, 2013; Ford
and outcomes in the complex environ- agendas of the different agents who are et al., 2014). The oil and gas industry
ment of megaprojects. The GCM has involved in the project. Furthermore, had been critical of government regu-
been criticized for being more appli- the structuring of these complex proj- lation and industrial relations and in
cable to situations in which technolo- ects predicts a high level of problem the media turned its attention to blam-
gies are ambiguous and the time frames latency during which problems may ing external factors, including the gov-
for the streams of decisions and solu- linger within the project without being ernment and unions for many of the
tions to interact are long (Eisenhardt resolved. This problem latency creates problems (Ernst & Young, 2014). Sym-
& Zbaracki, 1992). However, this is a cost and schedule overruns. We then bolically, these projects became ideo-
good description of many megaproj- describe the research method used logical battlegrounds between business,
ects, especially the development of very to test these propositions and discuss government, and environmentalists.
large liquefied natural gas projects, findings from our data analysis. The The three East Coast projects were
which we used as the setting for this article concludes with a discussion of especially contentious, because the gas
research (Olaniran et al., 2016). how the GCM can provide new ways of delivered to the port for liquefaction
In this article we use GCM as a conceptualizing performance problems and export came from coal seams (also
way of explaining the differences in in megaprojects and generate broader called coal-bed methane). Not only did

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Symbols, Sublimes, Solutions, and Problems: A Garbage Can Model of Megaprojects
PAPERS

this use the process of hydraulic fractur- Australia, the massive Gorgon gas proj- regulation and industrial relations.
ing (or ‘fracking’) to release the gas, it ect, developed by Chevron, had started Our data source was the Factiva database,
also necessitated the drilling of thou- with a construction budget of around which comprises over 30,000 news and
sands of smaller wells across a very large US$37 billion and was headed for a information sources, including the Aus-
area, which included farmland (Ford budget of US$60 billion by 2017. While tralian Financial Review, The Guardian,
et al., 2014). With this large footprint and the project was environmentally chal- Reuters, The New York Times, The Wall
public interest, these projects became lenging due to the protected status of Street Journal, and Dow Jones Newswire,
powerful symbols for environmental- the area it was operating in, as well as a covering more than 22 million public
ists, the gas companies, and govern- breakthrough CO2 capture and under- and private companies. We searched the
ment but with very divergent meanings ground sequestration plant that was Factiva database for new reports pub-
and prioritization of problems. The attached to the project, the attention of lished between 2010 and 2015 mention-
environmental lobby was able to use the industry turned to the high wages ing Australian oil and gas cost overruns
the coal seam gas projects as a rallying and unionization within the work- and blowouts and found 65 reports. We
point for other interest groups, includ- force of 5,000 employees to explain the scanned these reports, coded the com-
ing many ‘green’ voters in the cities cost blowout. Claims of average wages monly cited specific problem attribu-
and some sections of the agricultural for low-skill construction workers of tions, and categorized these into internal
industry, which also forced regulatory US$150,000 and an infamous example and external factors (Figure 1). High
responses from the government (Aus- of a chef being paid US$350,000 were costs of doing business, a factor that
tralian Broadcasting Corporation [ABC], widely publicized (Ellem, 2014). refers to the cost of doing business in
2013). The Queensland Labor govern- Much of the public debate on the Australia more generally (Commission,
ment used the projects to project an projects happened in the print media, 2014) were most frequently cited, with
image of prosperity, including an elec- with the project owners keen on high- labor costs and availability also receiving
tion promise to return royalties from lighting problems external to the project, attention. Consistent with the politicized
the project to voters in the form of an which were threatening to delay comple- nature of these projects, the complaints
education scholarship worth US$1.6 bil- tion or increase costs. For this reason, about labor availability were often linked
lion over 10 years (Hurst, 2012). Simi- we conducted a systematic survey of to work immigration visas, which were
larly, the projects became a contested the business press, which showed the mostly opposed by the unions due to the
subject for the ongoing political debate attribution of problems by the industry perceived threat to Australian workers
on industrial relations. In Western to external factors such as government (Ellem, 2014).

Figure 1: Reasons cited for oil and gas project overruns in the print media (2010–2015).

120  December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal


From a GCM perspective, an exter- of these oil and gas projects (Floricel gas megaprojects, finds that there is a
nal problem focus from project owners & Miller, 2001; Merrow, 2012; Miller & relationship between aggressive sched-
can be seen as part of the megaproject Hobbs, 2005; Olaniran et al., 2016). uling and cost overruns. While the stake-
garbage can in which there is a stream In addition, in the megaproject envi- holders in the investment community
of problems, solutions, participants, and ronment of many firms working in a net- exert pressure on boards and executives
choice opportunities that are processed work of contractual relationships there to achieve faster project delivery, this
through the garbage can over time. At the is a feature of segmented generation of actually slows delivery due to disputes
outset these projects became decision- streams of solutions (Ford et al., 2014). and technical problems (Merrow, 2012).
making situations where long-standing In all cases with the Australian oil and This observation is also consistent with
industry concerns about unionized labor gas megaprojects that are within our GCM predictions, where increasing load
and government regulations could be sample, the project owners—being the in the decision-making system can slow
aired and framed as an obstruction to the oil and gas companies—commenced the matching of problems and solu-
business sublime of creating a world–first the project with a systems integrator tions. Problem latency will be evident
industry, However, what were the con- firm that would engineer, procure, and through the relationship between prob-
sequences of this problem stream enter- construct (EPC) the project on behalf lems identified by businesses and proj-
ing the megaproject garbage can at the of the owner (Olaniran, Love, Edwards, ect performance measures. Following
beginning of the project? Pinfield (1986) Olatunji, & Matthews, 2015). While this from Proposition 1, although there may
argues that these circumstances, where allows the owner to transfer risk to the be high-profile attention given to some
there are divergent agendas with prob- EPC firm to make the project less risky problems that were dominant at the
lems being prioritized over others, are for funding purposes, it also effectively beginning of the project by project own-
more likely to trigger garbage can pro- divides the project into segmented pack- ers, there is a likelihood of the accumu-
cesses. As described in the original Cohen ages delivered by different firms. This lation of latent problems throughout the
et al. (1972) model, there may be a stream project delivery structure also reinforces project network, which have a bigger
of potential solutions to these problems the hierarchical decision-making struc- impact on project performance. Thus,
but also a limited amount of energy that ture that slows the matching of problems Proposition 2 is stated as follows.
participants can expend on the decision- and solutions in the GCM.
Proposition 2 (P2): Lower ranked inter-
making process to make choices. In this study, we are particularly con-
nal project problems will be more closely
In a simulation of the garbage can cerned with the divergent attention of
related to poor project performance than
model under these assumptions, Cohen megaproject owners and service com-
the publicly visible external factors priori-
and colleagues show that problems panies within the project to focus on dif- tized by project owners.
are infrequently resolved and, as the ferent problems. The GCM predicts that
demands on the system increase in the given the segmented organizing struc- To test these propositions we con-
hierarchical decision-making structure ture of oil and gas megaprojects there will ducted a cross-sectional industry survey
most descriptive of megaprojects, the be an accumulation of unresolved prob- of megaproject-involved firms in the
prospects for problem resolution fall lems disconnected from solutions. With Australian oil and gas industry, which
further. Furthermore, Cohen et al. (1972) the locus of decisions existing primarily we describe next.
suggest a path dependency, where with the project owners (operators), we
decision makers work on active prob- should be able to see differences in the Methods
lems with active choices and therefore types of problems identified by them Survey and Variables
‘. . . decision-makers and problems tend compared with the service companies in A survey instrument originally devel-
to move together from choice to choice. the supply chain who are more structur- oped by the Cambridge Centre for Busi-
Thus, one would expect decision-makers ally separated from these choices. This ness Research (Cosh & Hughes, 2000,
who have a feeling that they are working leads us to the first research proposition: 2003; Cosh, Hughes, Bullock, & Milner,
on the same problems in somewhat dif- 2009; McCarthy, Oliver, & Verreynne,
Proposition 1 (P1): The rank order of prob-
ferent contexts, mostly without results’ 2017) was adapted for use in the
lems identified by service companies within
(Cohen et al., 1972, p. 10). The garbage Australian oil and gas industry setting
megaprojects will be different from those of
can model indicates that problems can the project owners.
(Ford et al., 2014; Ford, Verreynne, &
persist without solutions, especially in Steen, 2017). This adaptation was done
the megaproject context of hierarchical Problem latency can result in delays through face-to-face interviews with
decision making and increasing load later in the project when these unre- experienced oil and gas managers and
in the system with the emergence of solved problems finally emerge to consultants to test for completeness and
unforeseen complications and drive disrupt the critical path of the project. validity. The survey instrument was then
for speed in delivery, which are typical Merrow (2012), in his survey of oil and piloted with a larger group of managers.

December 2017/January 2018  ■  Project Management Journal  121


Symbols, Sublimes, Solutions, and Problems: A Garbage Can Model of Megaprojects
PAPERS

The purpose of the survey was twofold, 5—crucial limitation). The 24 items project success in the oil and gas indus-
namely (1) to understand the perceived and their shortened variable names are try where projects are commenced with
problems facing firms in the oil and gas shown in Table 1, pointing to a wide sales agreements in place. The financial
industry and (2) to understand the man- range of internal and external factors penalties for not having gas ready for
agerial practices that they employ to that affect projects. While some of these shipment are severe so the construction
address these challenges. This approach variables, such as access to overseas budget tends to expand to avoid comple-
allowed us to gain a snapshot of the labor and high costs due to the strong tion delays (Ford et al., 2014).
perceptions of those firms that made Australian dollar, are specific to the We conducted exploratory factor
up the industry supply chain—from research context, we note that these analysis (EFA) on the list of barriers to
owners/operators of the project through barriers are broadly in line with other identify latent “barrier” constructs. Prin-
to construction firms and other busi- studies of oil and gas projects (Merrow, ciple components analysis with Varimax
nesses that supply specific components 2012; Olaniran et al., 2015). rotation was used to validate the gen-
and expertise. Specifically, the survey An additional dichotomous vari- eral view in the literature that megapro-
asked firms several questions regard- able regarding budget overrun was cre- ject constraints could be grouped into
ing their innovation activities, col- ated to support means testing and to external and internal factors. The Kaiser-
laboration behaviors, and competitive be used as the dependent variable in Meyer-Olkin Measure of Sampling Ade-
environment. It also asked questions logistic regression analyses. This variable quacy achieved was 0.751, above the
about factors that have caused firms is called ‘budget exceeded,’ and it takes 0.7 suggested minimum (Field, 2009).
difficulty in meeting business objectives the value of one if the firm answered that Six separate factors were identified, how-
in the past three years, such as “Given “exceeding budget and/or schedule in ever, only the first two factors explain
your firm’s history in the last three projects” is a significant or crucial limi- enough variance to be considered in
years, which of the following factors tation with regard to meeting business subsequent analyses (Table 2). The first
have acted as a significant limitation objectives (a 4 or a 5 on the Likert scale). factor contains nine items and accounts
or barrier on your ability to meet your It takes the value of zero if not. We used for most of the variance. The items in
business objectives?” Answers were col- this variable as the measure of project the factor include governmental regu-
lected via a five-point Likert scale (rang- performance, because being able to stay lations, including red tape and envi-
ing from 1—insignificant limitation to on budget is usually the main indicator of ronmental compliance; social license to

Variable Description Variable (cont’d) Description (cont’d)


 1 Risk sharing Inequitable risk sharing in contractual 13 Competition Increasing competition
relationships
 2 Meet incentive Ability to meet incentive targets on 14 Red tape Government regulations and compliance
contracts (red tape)
 3 Scope Scope changes in projects 15 Lengthy approval Lengthy project approval processes
 4 Contractual disputes Contractual disputes 16 Green tape Environmental compliance (green-tape)
 5 High cost High cost of doing business in Australia 17 Regulatory uncertainty Environmental regulatory uncertainty
(strong A$)
 6 Poor productivity Poor labor productivity 18 Current bottlenecks Current infrastructure bottlenecks
 7 Skilled labor Skilled labor 19 Future bottlenecks Future infrastructure availability
uncertainty (ports, rails, etc.)
 8 Management skills Management skills 20 Social license to Social license to operate (land access,
operate community relations)
 9 Marketing skills Marketing and sales skills