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How Big Things Get Done: Unveiling the Secrets of Successful Megaprojects

“a whopping 91.5% of projects overshoot budgets or timelines, with less than 1% meeting both”

“How Big Things Get Done” by Bent Flyvbjerg and Dan Gardner is not just another business book—it’s a profound exploration into the realm of megaprojects, unraveling the complexities, challenges, and secrets behind managing monumental projects. The authors, with their rich reservoir of expertise and experience, dissect the anatomy of megaprojects, offering invaluable insights and strategies to navigate their intricate pathways.

The Enigma of Megaprojects

Megaprojects, characterized by their gargantuan scales and billion-dollar budgets, are often marred by a curse—a tendency to overshoot budgets and timelines, leading to disastrous outcomes. The authors delve deep into various sectors, from nuclear power construction to IT, unearthing the commonalities and unique challenges that plague such massive undertakings.

Navigating the Unpredictable

Navigating through the unpredictable terrains of megaprojects requires a blend of strategic foresight, adaptability, and resilience. Flyvbjerg and Gardner emphasize the significance of anticipating uncertainties and crafting strategies that are both robust and flexible. They advocate for a culture of continuous learning and adaptation, where insights are gleaned from past projects, and strategies are continuously refined to navigate evolving challenges and uncertainties. The authors underscore the importance of cultivating a mindset that is prepared to embrace changes, adapt strategies, and recalibrate visions to align with the dynamic landscapes of megaprojects.

Global Challenges, Universal Lessons

Flyvbjerg and Gardner transcend geographical boundaries, presenting a global perspective on the challenges pervading megaprojects. They unveil a universal struggle, marked by political and psychological hurdles, that hampers the successful execution of massive projects across various sectors, from infrastructure to digital realms.

The Human Element

At the heart of every megaproject lies the human element—the leaders, teams, and diverse stakeholders who breathe life into the visions and strategies. Flyvbjerg and Gardner highlight the critical role of leadership in steering projects towards success. They emphasize the importance of assembling teams marked by experience, expertise, and a shared commitment to the project’s vision. The authors also delve into the psychological and political dimensions, exploring how these factors influence decisions, strategies, and the overall trajectory of projects. They advocate for a leadership approach that is attuned to the human dimensions, fostering a culture of collaboration, innovation, and shared ownership.

A Treasure Trove of Data

The book is enriched with a formidable database, meticulously curated by Flyvbjerg, offering a panoramic view of the historical and contemporary landscapes of megaprojects. The data, encompassing over 16,000 projects across 136 countries, unveils a staggering reality—less than 1% of projects meet their initial budgets and timelines.

Strategies for Success

Flyvbjerg and Gardner, however, don’t leave the readers in a labyrinth of challenges—they light the path with strategic principles and actionable insights to steer megaprojects towards success:

  • Visionary Clarity: Begin with a clear, well-defined vision. Understand the ultimate goal and align every action and decision towards its realization.
  • Planning with Precision: Embrace rigorous planning methodologies, leveraging technologies and historical insights, to craft a roadmap marked by precision and practicality.
  • Adopting Modularity: Break down the monumental tasks into smaller, manageable modules. This approach fosters efficiency, flexibility, and adaptability.
  • Realistic Cost Projections: Maintain a grounded approach towards cost estimations and projections, avoiding the pitfalls of over-optimism and the sunk cost fallacy.

A Vision for the Future

“How Big Things Get Done” is more than a retrospective analysis—it’s a forward-looking vision that charts a course towards a future marked by successful, impactful megaprojects. The authors envision a future where megaprojects are led with strategic precision, innovative approaches, and a steadfast commitment to excellence. They call for a reimagining of approaches and mindsets, urging professionals to embrace new paradigms that align with the complexities and magnitudes of future megaprojects. In their vision, the future of megaprojects is bright, marked by projects that not only meet their objectives but also drive progress, innovation, and positive impacts across societies and economies.

Concluding Wisdom

“How Big Things Get Done” emerges as a beacon of wisdom for business leaders, project managers, and visionaries navigating the tumultuous seas of megaprojects. It’s not just a book—it’s a mentor, guiding with its rich insights, strategic principles, and a visionary perspective, empowering professionals to lead megaprojects to the pinnacles of success and excellence.

At Front Line Advisory Group, we are pioneers in Capital Improvement Bond Management, leveraging unparalleled expertise and deep industry insights. Our mission extends beyond consultation – we empower our clients to realize the full potential of their investments, ensuring tax dollars are put to maximum use through astute Program Management Consulting. For more information or to commence your journey towards transformative bond management, reach out to us at

Further Reading:
How Big Things Get Done: The Surprising Factors That Determine the Fate of Every Project, from Home Renovations to Space Exploration and Everything In Between

Why do large projects go over budget?

FLAG provides program management consulting services in Central Texas for municipal and school capital improvement bonds. FLAG is revolutionizing the construction industry and transforming client expectations by obsessing over the basics of budget oversight, schedule enforcement, compliance, vendor management, and stakeholder communication.

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