Project Management

Method in the Mayhem: Managing Megaprojects (Part 1)

PMI United Kingdom Chapter

Ian Whittingham, PMP is director of Calixo Consulting, providing project and program management expertise from initiation through to implementation, covering business transformation, workflow process re-engineering, and enterprise data integration. He is a regular contributor to You may contact Ian directly at

If you take the long view, all epochs in human history can be defined with reference to a profound transformative change--usually the emergence of a new, dominant technology--that fundamentally alters the way in which humans organize themselves. Some believe we are now embarking on such a change, with the decline of the old Industrial age giving way to the rise of the new Digital one.

But if there was one originating epochal change from which all others have since proceeded, the transformation from nomadic hunter-gatherer to sedentary agricultural dweller--which occurred around 10,000 years or so ago during the Neolithic era--probably qualifies as the prime mover. In turn, the agricultural communities that formed as a result of that shift were foundational to the development of modern civic society.

Among other things, what enabled rudimentary agricultural settlements to develop into today’s complex urban communities was a means of harnessing collective effort that has not fundamentally changed in the past two-and-a-half millennia. If we look around us, we can see the monuments to that effort today--some ancient, some contemporary. And if we were to identify the means by which those monuments were created, the word that perhaps most closely describes the process is a very contemporary one: megaproject.

They leave very large footprints in their wake. But …

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