How Big Things Get Done Paperback – 16 February 2023 by Bent Flyvbjerg and Dan Gardner (Author)

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  • How Big Things Get Done Paperback – 16 February 2023 by Bent Flyvbjerg and Dan Gardner (Author)


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      How Big Things Get Done Paperback – 16 February 2023 by Bent Flyvbjerg and Dan Gardner (Author)


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      About the Author

      Best Books of 2023 in The Financial Times Shortlisted for Financial Times and Schroders Business Book of the Year 2023 ‘Important, timely, instructive and entertaining’ – Daniel Kahneman, bestselling author of Thinking, Fast and Slow ‘Entertaining . . . compelling . . . there are lessons here for managers of all stripes’ – The Economist Megaproject expert Bent Flyvbjerg and bestselling author Dan Gardner reveal the secrets to successfully planning and delivering ambitious projects on any scale. Nothing is more inspiring than a big vision that becomes a triumphant new reality. Think of how Apple’s iPod went from a project with a single employee to an enormously successful product launch in eleven months. But such successes are the exception. Consider how London’s Crossrail project delivered five years late and billions over budget. More modest endeavours, whether launching a small business, organizing a conference, or just finishing a work project on time, also commonly fail. Why? Understanding what distinguishes the triumphs from the failures has been the life’s work of Oxford professor Bent Flyvbjerg. In How Big Things Get Done, he identifies the errors that lead projects to fail, and the research-based principles that will make yours succeed: – Understand your odds. If you don’t know them, you won’t win. – Plan slow, act fast. Getting to the action quick feels right. But it’s wrong. – Think right to left. Start with your goal, then identify the steps to get there. – Find your Lego. Big is best built from small. – Master the unknown unknowns. Most think they can’t, so they fail. Flyvbjerg shows how you can. Full of vivid examples ranging from the building of the Sydney Opera House to the making of Pixar blockbusters, How Big Things Get Done reveals how to get any ambitious project done –
      Dimensions 2.3 × 23.5 cm
      Publisher ‏

      ‎ Macmillan (16 February 2023); The Smithson, 6 Briset Street, London EC1M 5NR

      Language ‏

      ‎ English

      Paperback ‏

      ‎ 304 pages

      ISBN-10 ‏

      ‎ 1035018942

      ISBN-13 ‏

      ‎ 978-1035018949

      Item Weight ‏

      ‎ 399 g

      Dimensions ‏

      ‎ 15.6 x 2.3 x 23.5 cm

      Country of Origin ‏

      ‎ United Kingdom

      Importer ‏

      ‎ Pan Macmillan Publishing, 707, 7th Floor, Kailash Building 26, K.G. Marg, New Delhi, Delhi 110001

      Packer ‏

      ‎ AAJ Enterprises; Khasra No. 91/7, Village Akbarpur Barota, Sector – 42, Distt. Sonipat, Haryana- 131101

      Generic Name ‏

      ‎ Book

      Based on 8 reviews

      4.86 Overall
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      8 reviews for How Big Things Get Done Paperback – 16 February 2023 by Bent Flyvbjerg and Dan Gardner (Author)

      1. Alok Kejriwal

        A fascinating book that you MUST read.While the essence is Project Management and its best practices that the learned (and accomplished author) has painstakingly researched, there is deep wisdom in the book.Nuggets!The project was called California High-Speed Rail. It would connect two of the world’s great cities, Los Angeles and San Francisco, along with Silicon Valley, the global capital of high technology. And for a total cost of $33 billion it would be ready to roll by 2020. As I write, it is now fourteen years later.Cost estimates soared, to $43 billion, $68 billion, $77 billion, then almost $83 billion. As I write, the current highest estimate is $100 billion. But the truth is that nobody knows what the full, final cost will be.They knew how many windows Empire State would have, how many blocks of limestone, and of what shapes and sizes, how many tons of aluminum and stainless steel, tons of cement, tons of mortar. Even before it was begun, Empire State was finished entirely—on paper.The Empire State Building had been estimated to cost $50 million. It actually cost $41 millionIn total, only 8.5 percent of projects hit the mark on both cost and time. And a minuscule 0.5 percent nail cost, time, and benefits. Or to put that another way, 91.5 percent of projects go over budget, over schedule, or both And 99.5 percent of projects go over budget, over schedule, under benefits, or some combination of these.The pattern was so clear that I started calling it the “Iron Law of Megaprojects”: over budget, over time, under benefits, over and over againAnother IT blowout happened to the legendary jeans maker Levi Strauss: Originally forecast to cost $5 million, the project forced the company to take a $200 million loss and show its CIO the doorPlanning is a safe harbor. Delivery is venturing across the storm-tossed seas.In France, there is often a theoretical budget that is given because it is the sum that politically has been released to do something.In three out of four cases this sum does not correspond to anything in technical terms. This is a budget that was made because it could be accepted politically. The real price comes later.I once asked an engineer why their cost estimates were invariably underestimated and he simply answered, ‘if we gave the true expected outcome costs nothing would be built.’”Abraham Lincoln is reputed to have said that if he had five minutes to chop down a tree, he’d spend the first three sharpening the ax.Incredible stories about The Pentagon, Pixar, Steve Job’s failure, and many other well known brands, businesses and publicly visible projects!

      2. junglee

        The author shares real life case studies of various projects across the world. Also provides simple ideas that can be used to transform in your personal life and projects. A wonderful book.

      3. adarsh

        Was a very easy read , was able to finish in 2 days. Every piece is explained as a story. Excellent case studies on both sides of arguments. Key take aways Think slow and act fast as our mind is not evolving to do creative thinking, getting your team right is very important, experience is underrated as a lot of complexity cannot be defined ex you can never teach how to ride a bicycle in terms of steps , break the project to the lowest level like legos and then do specific benchmarks and don’t say my project is unique, better to fail small than directly going big , always take the outside view , constantly watch out for risks and build bridges.

      4. Steve Reader

        Essential reading on successful project deliveryI’ve taken a keen interest in Professor Flyvbjerg’s work for a number of years and luckily much of his academic writing is freely available to read online (unlike a lot of other academic writing). As such I was excited to read his first book for a popular audience and whilst this short book (200 pages not including references) naturally lacks the depth of some of his other work this is a fine digest of his ideas and one I would happily recommend to my fellow project professionals as well as to the layman.Professor Flyvbjerg has made it his life’s work to gather data on large projects and to use this to build an understanding of what makes a project successful or, as this book often focuses on, what make it fail. The book draws examples from the huge number of examples of projects that have massively overrun their budgets and schedules and in some cases failed to deliver any benefits at all. With his co-writer Dan Gardner (whose book Risk I would also recommend), the author tells relatable stories that initially focus on the human element of these failures: over commitment, poor planning, underestimating risk, hubris and optimism. Almost inevitably this draws the behavioural economics work of Daniel Kahneman into the picture (I’m not sure I’ve read many ‘Smart Thinking’ type books that don’t).The variety of case studies from the Sydney Opera House to Pixar Studios make for an engaging and highly readable book and provide fine examples to support the arguments presented for How Big Things Get Done. An example of a house restoration project gone awry brings the thesis to a human level (although not exactly relatable, the renovation goes over budget by the price of about five average houses in the UK).No spoilers here for anyone who follows Professor Flyvbjerg’s work, his main argument is for a data focused approach to projects using similar shaped projects as a basis for planning, and a repeatable modular approach to design rather than building huge one offs. This book is a neat and easily readable presentation of that thesis with easily understood examples. Hopefully it will feature in the bedside reading of policy makers and ultimately lead to a wider acceptance of the ideas within.If there are weaknesses in the book they are often due to the lack of depth that leads to further questions. Thankfully there are pages and pages of references for further reading to explore. That said some of the questions are ones that don’t yet have answers. For example the data available for reference class forecasting is not as widely available as it should be and despite the availability of some higher level data on government websites, much of the data for planning tends to be walled in due to its commercial value in competitive markets. Given the success of open source in software I’ve often thought about how making this data more available should be a policy focus.I was frustrated by the short shrift given to outlier projects on the left hand side of the distribution (within schedule, under budget etc.) These are disregarded as little more than good stories for the likes of Malcolm Gladwell, whereas I think there probably are lessons to be learned about avoiding some of the bottlenecks and entrenched bureaucracy that slow down projects and cause construction to be one of industries with the lowest productivity in the UK. I’m not calling for deregulation or safety shortcuts but there are surely examples of innovation in these left of the curve projects that make them equally as worth studying as those expensive monsters on the right of the curve.I’d like to also have read a little more about Professor Flyvbjerg’s thoughts on planning. He argues convincingly that time, effort and money spent on planning at the start is better spent than that spent in delivery. I cannot disagree and there are plenty of examples in the news right now to support this (High Speed 2 for one). However the planning paralysis we seen in the UK can probably be put forward as an argument for the alternative approach of just getting on with it. Hinkley Point C would be generating electricity now if it hadn’t lingered for so long. The planning documents for Sizewell C number tens of times more than those required for Hinkley Point C, a power station that it is supposedly a cookie cutter copy of. I think of the city of Bristol’s proposed underground system. Local government officials argue against the project saying it will never get done and billions would be swallowed in planning by consultants. The money would be better spent on buses. This is the world of planning we exist in and whilst it might not be as expensive as a failed undersea tunnel, it can certainly be just as much of a blocker on big things getting done.The book doesn’t really delve too deeply into the realms of policy making. The solution to all of these examples is long term strategy that is immune to the whims of government and the book doesn’t really cover this in depth (except where it discusses examples of how budgets are often sized to be politically expedient).Those things being said I did spend most of my time reading this book quietly nodding my head in recognition. In my career I’ve seen examples of both the good behaviours and bad behaviours described, in both individuals and in organisations. It certainly provokes thought and with the support of government clients and cost sensitive companies many of its ideas could become engrained in project commissioning and delivery. The difficulties of HS2 and Hinkley Point in the UK must be feeding an appetite for more agile delivery of infrastructure projects. This book doesn’t have all the answers but it certainly provides a great framework for getting big things done in the future.

      5. Alan F. Sewell

        How to do big (and small) projects on T.I.M.E.Most books about project management are dry as dust and loaded with platitudes about planning, prioritizing and scheduling. This one is exciting because it brings to life the colossal failures — and also a few stellar successes — of projects most of us have never heard of.Others are shown in a new light. For example, the Sydney Opera House is a national symbol of Australia. The authors point out that it was completed only after the first design failed, causing it to open more than a decade behind schedule, at multiples of its estimated cost. Australia’s government was so furious with its architect that it banned him from the country for life. He died in 2008, 25 years after it opened, never having set foot in it, to see it with his own eyes.Most government-run projects are like that, because politicians and bureaucrats don’t care about wasting the public’s money. Such as the proposed “bullet train” from Los Angeles to San Francisco, abandoned after spending hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars. So are many private projects. I developed information systems in the 1990s as a three-person company to provide work arounds for corporate IT projects that failed after the companies threw tens of $millions down IT ratholes. I saw some companies bankrupted by chaotic information systems that drained their cashflow. The failures were mostly covered up to avoid embarrassing the CEOs until the companies went belly up.This authors discuss these megaflops, but also points out some stellar successes like The Bilbao, Spain Guggenheim Museum (I’d never heard of it, but when I searched an on-line image, it blew my mind) and the T-5 terminal at London’s Heathrow airport. Also, some old-time classics like The Empire State Building, built in less than two years and under budget. Why was the Empire State building completed so fast? Because it was modelled on a smaller 34 story building that still stands in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The same company built both, scaling the small one into the big one. The book is loaded with fascinating stories like that, of how smart management builds on experience instead of reinventing the wheel. The authors give a fascinating account of how the magnificent Pentagon was built in only two years , but only after the original horrific plan was torpedoed by a few conscientious government bureaucrats, to the angst of their superiors. The best part of the story is that the legacy of its first iteration failure was preserved in the beautiful second iteration. If it had been designed and located optimally on the first iteration, it would only have four sides and become just another bland government building.This book is mercifully free of goofy business management acronyms. If I had to invent one, based on its most salient themes, I’d call it T.I.M.E. for Teamwork, Iteration, Modularity, and Experience.The authors show how these are the fundamental factors that separate the on-time, on-budget, and perform-to-expectation projects from the years-delayed, budget-busting, fail-to-perform, then-are-abandoned ones. You should hire the most experienced people to build a project that has modular components that can be finished in iterations of increasing finish, and build a team spirit to do it right.I instinctively used these ideas in the 1990s and early 2000s when my company of 3 people replaced failing ERP systems for Fortune 500 companies. Our systems were iterative — i.e. produce basic functionality in six weeks, then layer complexity on top of it only where complexity is required. They were modular. When a company liked our Supply Chain system, they asked us to design a Customer Service / Order Management system. Instead of building a new one from scratch, we repurposed the Supply Chain application into Order Management by hanging a minus sign in front of it. Instead of putting stuff into inventory, the system took it out. Same system, two purposes. Our systems were operational in six months for under $1,000,000, while the companies’ failing systems we replaced didn’t work after 6 years and $60,000,000.Kudos to authors Ben Flyvbjerg and Dan Gardner, who have done their share of managing world-renowned projects, for writing in a fun-to-read style. I especially liked their showing the common denominators between gigantic projects few of us will ever work on, and home improvement projects most of us will. A contractor is completing one for me at this very moment. After reading this book I can understand why it is going so well. The one before it went horribly. I ended up suing the contractor into bankruptcy then getting the state to convict him of fraud in criminal court. If I’d know what was in this book the first time around, I would have abandoned the first project at the outset before any damage was done instead of having to close it with civil and criminal prosecutions that took a couple years to wend through the courts. The current project, of similar scope with anew contractor, will be completed in two weeks at 25% of the cost of the failed one.Read this book for gleanings on doing big, and small, projects on T.I.M.E.

      6. @Timothy_Hughes

        Do you have a project that you want to bring in on time and on budget? Read this.The book How Big Things get done – The surprising factors behind every success project, from home renovations to space exploration” by Bent Flyvbjerg and Dan Gardner is a book about, as it says in the title, big projects.We’ve all seen big infrastructure projects like a new railway line, Olympic stadium or even home renovations. We have all seen them, they are estimated to cost X and they end up costing 2X, 5X or even 10X. So why is this?The book is based on extensive research and data and explains why these projects fail and over run and what you can do to (try) and make sure the project you are involved in, don’t go over budget. Bent is clearly a very direct guy and in the book he gives it you straight, wish I find refreshing.

      7. R. Kuppadakath

        A Great Combination of Story Telling and Nuggets of WisdomIt was an incredibly captivating read; I managed to complete it in under a week despite working 12 hours a day. Although I’ve delved into numerous project management books, I believe this one, in retrospect, should have been my starting point. Exploring both significant project failures and successes provides invaluable insights into the essential elements necessary for any project’s success.Hailing from an IT background, where, based on my personal experience, the success rate is disappointingly low, I can readily connect with many of the points the author has articulated in the book. On a side note, it was surprising to discover that the Heathrow Terminal 5 project was considered a resounding success. As one of the early passengers to use T5 shortly after its inauguration, the baggage debacle still remains vivid in my memory!

      8. Brian Allen

        PracticalI am managing a mega project. This book provides good examples and practical advice.

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