Uncertainty, Complexity, and Risk in Indian Mega Projects
Prof. Krishna Moorthy

Mega projects are large, transformational, and socially significant that have a long lead period between project development and delivery.By definition, a mega project in India costs more than Rs. 5000 crore and takes more than five years to complete. Worldwide, it would be a project of $1 billion and more.

These projects are characterized by imperfect projections of future benefits, high degrees of ambiguity about processes, long duration, and a high turnover of professional staff.

They have a large number of influential and critical stakeholders, both public and private, and a significantly widespread impact on the economy and society.1

The size and dimensions of mega projects, especially with regard to their impact and the amount of resources dedicated to their delivery, mean that mega projects are not simply “magnified versions of smaller projects”2

They are 'different type of projects' with different problems and requirements. The combined monetary value of mega projects normally overshadows most other comparatives in the global economy.

The Indian Scene
Despite the key role that mega projects play in developing economies and the need to prioritize them, a vast majority of these projects fail to meet their stated objectives.

Why do mega projects fail?
1. The dominant assumptions of traditional project management, in which projects are mainly defined by hard objectives (i.e. time, cost, and scope), provide an inadequate basis for delivering mega projects successfully.

2. In mega projects, the projections of time and cost invariably are subject to creep.

3. In most cases, project benefits are overhyped and are not a true reflection of the benefits the project is likely to accrue on completion several years later.

4. Project management, with its focus on rational planning and delivery, is ill-equipped to consider the underlying social influences and politics that drive and initiate mega project in the first place.2

5. The most important and underlying reason for failure is the role played by the uncertainty, complexity, and risk conundrum (UCR) in project planning, estimation, and execution.

Let us dwell on the last aspect to understand how to bring in predictability in mega project success.

In a mega project, the factors of scope, time, and cost are built on a pyramid whose base is defined as per convenience, and with data limitations.

Herein lies a fundamental foundational error.

India National Programs
Holistic Approach to Save Tigers
By Panchalee Thakur

In 2015, when the Government of India announced that the tiger population in India surged 58 percent in seven years, it was a moment to cheer the efforts put in...Read More

Breathing Life Back into Humayun’s Tomb
By Panchalee Thakur

The unveiling of a new gold and copper finial on top of Humayun's Tomb in New Delhi on 19 April caps the closure of a long and complex restoration project of th...Read More

Understanding the Basics of Smart Cities
By Debabrata Samanta

In recent times, there has been a buzz around smart city projects in India as cities are considered the growth engines of a country. Smart city projects not onl...Read More