Innovation in Megaprojects: Learning Lessons From the 2012 London Olympics

We examined how major innovations were utilised in this mega-project

Theme: Systems, Services and Design

Dates: 2010-2012

Research Partners: Olympic Delivery Authority, CH2M Hill (Consortium of Laing O’Rourke, Mace, Balfour Beatty)

Research Team: Andy Davies, Professor David Gann, Iain McKenzie

Our research focuses on how learning and transfer of project knowledge can best occur and its relationship to overall project performance – typically expressed in terms of achieving on-time, on-budget outcomes with exemplary safety.

Building on our earlier systems integration model developed during our Heathrow Terminal 5 and St Pancras projects, the London Olympics provides a highly logical setting in which to continue to develop our understanding of the how innovation can be successfully achieved in megaprojects.  Our objective was to explore all three of the learning/transfer mechanisms identified in the previous project. In the context of the London Olympics, we could be more specific about each of these areas:

  • Innovation stemming from prior projects
  • Innovation occurring within the Olympics project
  • Capturing/codifying lessons

We focused primarily at the senior level management of the megaproject and the major innovations utilised on the project. We were not only interested in documenting innovations per se but were crucially concerned with how and why innovations occur. It is thus important that we looked across all phases of a given megaproject including planning, design, construction and operational testing/handover.

Project Outcomes

We identified 3 key reasons for the success of the site construction:

  • First, the use of key project management processes; second the explicit use of targets and principles to achieve specific objectives and finally, a cohesive management philosophy across the breadth of the project. This approach has helped to raise standards of practice across the UK construction industry, and we showed clear evidence of learning being taken forward at various levels through the adoption of firm-wide policies.
  • Second, the clear specification of targets and principles within larger programme objectives (such as health and saftey)
  • Finally, across the entire programme a high-level management philosophy was adopted to ensure the overall cohesion and effectiveness of the wider project.
  • A report of our findings, entitled Lessons Learned from the London 2012 Games Construction project has recently been published as part of the ODA’s Learning Legacy programme. Further publications from this work will be produced in the coming year.

Project Dissemination

Public Dissemination: This work has feartured in 2 articles published in the Financial Times in July 2012; the first looking at the link between sport and management studies, and a second Q&A interview with Andrew Davies on megaproject management.

Practitioner Dissemination: Dr Andew Davies presented work from this project in January 2012 at the Association of Project Managers dissemination event entitled ‘Learning Legacy Launch Debate: Lessons Learned on the Construction of the Olympic Park’. Dr Davies was the only academic speaker, with other presentations given by the CEO of the Olympics Delivery Authority, and the Directors of Mace and Balfour Beatty.

Notable Achievements

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