House of Project Complexity - Understanding Complexity in Large Infrastructure Projects

29 Pages Posted: 20 May 2013 Last revised: 29 Aug 2013

See all articles by Donald R. Lessard

Donald R. Lessard

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management

Vivek Sakhrani

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Engineering Systems Division; CPCS Transcom Inc.

Roger Miller

EMD School of Management

Date Written: April 26, 2013

Abstract

This paper describes our conceptualization of complexity in Large Infrastructure Projects (LIPs). Since complexity itself is an emergent concept that is hard to pin down, we focus on the relationship between various project features and, particularly, properties associated with complexity such as difficulty, outcome variability and non-linearity, and (non) governability. We propose a combined structural and process-based theoretical framework for understanding contributors to complexity in this particular substantive context – the “House of Project Complexity” (HoPC). The HoPC addresses the impact of inherent technical and institutional project features, the process of project architecting, the structural relationship between various project features and these “designed” constructs, and the emergence of risks and life-cycle properties (“ilities”). The HoPC is first applied to two trial samples and then to the main data set of detailed case studies of infrastructure projects prepared for the IMEC study. We believe that the “House of Project Complexity” can be generally extended to other substantive contexts that exhibit similar properties as Large Infrastructure Projects (LIPs), in the extractive industries, large manufacturing projects, or other industrial megaprojects.

Keywords: projects, complexity, infrastructure, project architecture, project shaping, risks

JEL Classification: D81, H54

Suggested Citation

Lessard, Donald R. and Sakhrani, Vivek and Miller, Roger, House of Project Complexity - Understanding Complexity in Large Infrastructure Projects (April 26, 2013). MIT Sloan Research Paper No. 5002-13, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2259247 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2259247

Donald R. Lessard (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management ( email )

100 Main Street
E62-460
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States
617-253-6688 (Phone)
617-258-6617 (Fax)

Vivek Sakhrani

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Engineering Systems Division ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
United States

CPCS Transcom Inc. ( email )

1050 Connecticut Ave NW, Suite 500
Washington, DC 20036
United States

Roger Miller

EMD School of Management ( email )

Rise of the University-St Joseph Biaggi
CS 70329
13331 MARSEILLE - Cedex 03
France

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