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"Overdue and overspent - why do our projects go so badly wrong?"

From Eurotunnel to the Scottish Parliament, the inaugural lecture by the Dean of the University of Hull Business School spanned a host of projects that had either gone very wrong or failed to deliver on time.

Professor Terry Williams, Dean of Hull University Business School
PRLog - Nov. 8, 2012 - HULL, U.K. -- During the lecture, titled “Overdue and Overspent : why do our projects go badly wrong?”, Professor Terry Williams illustrated how the massive overspend at Holyrood  (home to the Scottish Parliament) was accounted for by revisions to the designs for the building and under-estimation, while it was the unfortunate tragedy of the King’s Cross Fire that disrupted the production of the shuttle wagons for Eurotunnel.

In the case of the shuttle wagons, said Terry, who joined the Business School as Dean in 2011, a requirement for more stringent safety regulations following the King’s Cross fire resulted in a new, more complicated design being necessary. “The Scottish Parliament was ten times over budget , seeing the £40million bid escalating to £400million; there were 15,000 changes in design following the commencement of the project which indicates to me a very important lesson in project management.”

Terry suggested that while some risks to the success of a project can be predicted, often those that are considered to be the most important ones are not the ones that put the project at risk. These risks are those that can cause vicious circles or “snowballing” effects and are often to do with people or external events rather than technical risks. He cited the example of US train giant Amtrak’s Boston New York service as a case in point. “The announcement of a corporate statement from Amtrak about privatisation actually proved to be the biggest risk.  No one could have anticipated that!”

Drawing on his career in academia and industry, Terry entertained his audience of students, academics and visitors with an interesting mix of some quite infamous projects, such as the Jubilee Line extension, London Mayor Boris Johnson’s bikes, a government project to combine the IT provision for prisons and the probation service as well as a Norwegian onshore torpedo battery.

He concluded, “The torpedo battery was a classic case of flawed project concept. It opened on time and on cost, but it shut down after a week because there was actually no demand at all for it: it was a white elephant.”

Professor Terry Williams joined the triple-accredited Hull University Business School as Dean in 2011. Before entering academia, he first worked in Operational Research (OR) for nine years at Engineering Consultants YARD, developing Project Risk Management (PRM) and acting as Risk Manager for major defence projects. It was while at Strathclyde University in 1992 that he became Professor of OR and Department Head where he was with a team supporting over $1.5bn post-project Delay and Disruption claims, from which lessons were learned about how projects really behave.

Terry speaks and writes on project modelling, including around 70 Project Management /OR journal articles, and a number of books on modelling projects, learning from projects, project governance and front-end analysis, as well as professional OR. He is a qualified project manager (PMP) and until recently on the Academic Members Advisory Group of the leading Project Management Institute.

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Source:Hull University Business School
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Location:Hull - Yorkshire - United Kingdom
Industry:Business, Education
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