Book Review – "How Big Things Get Done"

Book Review – "How Big Things Get Done"
Mario Brazzoli
Insight article written date
06-03-2023
Insights written date
Review

How Big Things Get Done: The Surprising Factors That Determine the Fate of Every Project, from Home Renovations to Space Exploration and Everything In Between

A collaboration between a New York Times best-selling author, Dan Gardner and Oxford professor Bent Flyvbjerg, dubbed “the world’s leading megaproject expert.”. Released on the 7th of February 2023, “How big things get done” is an excellent book that delves into the intricacies of project management. Through their extensive research, the authors provide valuable insights into the factors that determine the success or failure of any project, ranging from home renovations to space exploration.

The book is divided into three main sections. In the first section, the authors discuss the importance of developing a clear vision and a comprehensive plan to achieve your desired outcomes. They provide insights into how to plan effectively, highlighting the importance of developing a realistic timeline and allocating resources appropriately.

In the second section, Flyvbjerg and Gardner focus on the challenges that arise during the execution phase of a project. They emphasize the need for clear communication and effective collaboration among team members. This section of the book also highlights the importance of staying adaptable and flexible in the face of unexpected challenges, as well as the critical role of leadership in driving a project forward.

In the final section of the book, the authors delve into the critical factors that can impact the success or failure of a project. They provide valuable insights into the importance of managing risk, maintaining a positive organisational culture, and ensuring that you have the right people in the right roles. They also discuss the role of accountability and transparency in driving successful outcomes.

Throughout the book, Flyvbjerg and Gardner illustrate their points with a range of fascinating case studies. For example, they explore the complexities of the Denver International Airport project, offering insights into how the project was managed, the challenges that arose, and the strategies that were employed to ensure its success. They also look at the failures of the Sydney Opera House and the Big Dig in Boston, drawing lessons from these failures that can be applied to future projects.

One of the standout features of “How Big Things Get Done” is the authors' focus on the importance of learning from failures. They provide numerous examples of projects that failed due to various factors, and they highlight the key lessons that can be learned from these failures. This is an important reminder that failure is an inevitable part of the project management process and  the key is to learn from experiences. thereby improving future projects.

Another strength of the book is its emphasis on the role of politics in project management. The authors highlight the importance of understanding the political context in which a project is taking place and the impact that this can have on the project's success. They provide numerous examples of how politics can impact project outcomes, from the funding of public projects to the allocation of resources and the role of stakeholders in decision-making.

In conclusion, How Big Things Get Done is an excellent book that provides valuable insights into the world of project management. Flyvbjerg and Gardner's accessible writing style, engaging case studies, and practical advice make this an invaluable resource for anyone involved in project management. Whether you are a seasoned professional or a beginner, this book is sure to provide you with valuable insights and strategies that will help you achieve your goals. 

Highly recommended!

Mario Brazzoli
Human Resources Business Partner

Author organization
ING
Author country
Netherlands

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