Leading a Megaproject? Three Things to Know First

Casey Freeman

Introduction
So, you’re about to close the deal on a megaproject with all the potential in the world. Everyone involved is ready to sign on the dotted line, jump in, and start tackling the deliverables on the project schedule. Before you do, here are three lessons from the capital project trenches. They are straightforward, actionable, and can save a great deal of time, frustration, and guesswork.

#1: Be aware of best practice versus best process.
A strength of the project management community is that project managers consistently look at their history and draw conclusions about lessons learned and how to avoid certain issues and obstacles the next time around. In a sense, people capture best practice as a form of risk management. If a project fails horribly, they put a “best practice” in place to prevent that kind of failure in the future. For example, you should have X percent of engineering completed before you can begin construction; you must not make any changes in your design beyond point Y; and it should take Z amount of time to contract with vendors, perfect the data, complete the engineering process, etc.

In fact, you could say that most project management guidance is the result of past failures. Consider the analogy of legal contracts. Most contracts we sign are full of restrictions and caveats that don’t apply to our particular …

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