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We are all familiar with projects and what they entail. But megaprojects take it a few notches higher.

For instance, a project could involve a single team of people collaborating in the same location. However, megaprojects are usually hugely complex projects larger than $1 billion, involving teams with various skillsets across the globe.

Megaprojects are the pathway to solving most of the 21st-century problems, including developing carbon-neutral fuels and eliminating a possible global recession in the future. That is why most board evaluations hammer on appointing the best hands and minds for project management roles, especially in megaprojects.

But how do we effectively manage these super complex yet essential projects? Here are some insights;

1. Be prepared for the bad news.

Every forward-thinking organisation must have an adequate governance structure, and putting one together is the board’s job. The right governance structure must have certain elements. Perhaps, the most important of these is adopting a culture that welcomes bad news. Most organisations find bad news highly uncomfortable, and rightly so.

2. Good governance requires the right team.

The right blend of individuals makes the most effective team and ensures adequate governance. Similar to what board evaluations aim to achieve, only the right people with the required skill sets must be put together to ensure the success of any megaproject. Although this is not the case in most situations, organisations must intentionally hire qualified, skilled, and people experienced in that type of project.

3. The board must be open to uncomfortable developments.

Most organisations are structured such that a certain unit is often isolated from bad news. That unit is the board. It is common to see boards and their leaderships focus only on positive reports. As it is in any corporate setting, no one wants to be the bearer of bad news to the boss. The board is the boss here and is possibly the only organisational unit protected from bad news.

Board evaluations must strive to correct that. You cannot completely avoid bad news when working on megaprojects. Things will not always go as planned. What distinguishes a successful megaproject from a failed one is handling bad news. Immediate and adequate actions when things start going wrong is essential. But the first step is welcoming the bad news.

4. The messenger is never at fault.

Every organisation must create an environment where it is easy, safe, and normal to communicate up the hierarchy when things go wrong. It is even more important when there is an ongoing megaproject. Information dissemination to the board, the CEO and even the C-Suite must be normalised and formalised, with information entry into communication and information systems.

5. Fine-tune every detail before starting.

Lastly, every megaproject requires adequate front-end planning. It should be the first step – before anything else. But most organisations are too eager, and end up starting before they are sure of what they have to do or what they are doing.

Ensure there is a successful and realistic business or project plan in place. Then do not deviate from this plan for any reason along the way. Creating an excellent plan requires much time and effort. You must be willing to commit all that because it ultimately determines the project’s success.

Megaproject management is not for the faint of heart and yet much of what gets done in companies today is through projects. So, it is vital to get it right.


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