This is Launch Conditioning #5
Whatever their size or structure, projects exist within a larger financial, geo-political, and governance framework (project environment) that can both enable and constrain the enterprise (Blanchard, 1990). The high-tech projects considered in the present study generally require physical space for infrastructure, often in underdeveloped (green field) sites prone to host sensitivities. Gaining approvals for large engineering facilities, often involving decades of operations, can be a slow process fraught with challenges.
Merrow's study of 52 mega-projects concludes:
"Cost growth and schedule slippage ... are driven primarily by conflicts between the projects and host governments, i.e., institutional problems relating to environmental regulations and opposition, health and safety rules, labor practices, and procurement controls. The importance of institutional factors clearly distinguishes megaprojects from their smaller cousins."
Projects encumbered by excessive government restrictions or involvement showed a strong negative relationship to success in a study by Murphy et al., while Pinto & Mantel add "change in the project environment beyond the control of management" as a cause of project failure.
There is advantage in establishing the project within known, coherent and mature institutional arrangements. Miller & Lessard (2000) write:
"Projects shaped in incomplete and shifting arrangements have a hard time taking off: they require deals and agreements that may not stand for long."
In the $3bn Accelerator Production of Tritium (APT) project, project management successfully adopted the concurrent engineering approach, integrating design, planning, and operations teams early on, and conducting up-front analysis driven by environmental (NEPA) requirements. Consideration of these early on resulted in significant changes to design and operability of the plant.
A proactive approach to government negotiations offers real benefits. By leveraging the infrastructure investment, the ALMA project not only won significant concessions, but also eased visa processes for foreign workers. However, failure to fully understand regulatory compliance can be costly. For example, the Australian ASKAP radio telescope encountered unanticipated delays in achieving government approval for land use, requiring significant diplomacy and skilled effort from project personnel. Blanchard urges early attention to regulatory approvals and argues that the cost of compliance with environmental and special interest groups needs must be factored into project cost estimates.
A 2007 report of major astronomy project surveys warns of changing political agendas, agency priorities, budget pressures, as well as unanticipated disasters, and scientific results. It recommends to "start with a more realistic sense of agency budgetary and policy environments...so that [project] surveys can be more resilient". The world beyond the project is neither benign nor complacent, and early stage investment into securing a legally compliant, socially acceptable, and affordable project deployment plan pays dividends.
95. Merrow, E. W. 1988 p vi study of 52 mega-projects.
96. Murphy, D. C., Baker, B. N., & Fisher, D. (1974). Determinants of project success. Massachusetts, USA: School of Management, Boston College.
97. Pinto, J. K., & Mantel, S. J. (1990). The causes of project failure, IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management, 37(4).
98. Miller, R., & Lessard, D. (2000). The strategic management of large engineering projects. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA.
99. Laufer, A., & Hoffman, E. J. (2000). Project management success stories Lessons of project leaders. Canada: John Wiley.
100. ALMA, 2011.
101. CSIRO, 2009.
102. Blanchard, F, L. (1990). Engineering project management. New York: Marcel Dekker.
103. Fellows, J. D., & Alexander, J, K., (Eds). (2010). Decadal science strategy surveys: Report of a workshop, National Research Council, 2007. Retrieved October 1, 2010, from nap.edu/catalog/11894.html, p3.