Learning from a Landmark Project: Heathrow Terminal 5

Construction by Neville Miles 2Theme: Systems, Service and Design

Dates: 2005-2006

Research Partners: Laing O’Rourke; BAA

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

This exploratory project sought to improve our understanding of how client and contractor organisations learn from a major – or ‘landmark’ – project and what lessons can be learned. It examined how two organisations – BAA (the client) and Laing O’Rourke (LOR) (the main contractor) – learnt from the Heathrow Terminal 5 (T5) project, using the learning gained to improve the management of all types of projects.

ISC data collection activities (including contractor interviews and internal firm process information) showed that successful project management skills differed from those necessary for business development. The episodic nature of project work meant firms were inefficient at capturing learning and risked opportunities for organisational development. ISC researchers developed the ystems Integrationodel to overcome management issues and improve project performance, whilst providing opportunities to take learning forward to feature endeavours.

Project Outputs

Listen to Andy Davies’s podcast on mega-project management  

Practitioner Dissemination: Results from this project led an increase in turnover at Laing O’Rourke and the application of the model to subsequent projects including the construction of the London 2012 Olympic Park and Crossrail. Heathrow Terminal 5 serves 35 million passengers per year. ISC researchers also developed Executive Education training for LOR managers helping them transfer project skills for the benefit of the overall business.

Academic Dissemination: The project developed a sound model for mega-project management which has been repplied. Papers from this work were published in MIT Sloan Management Review, California Management Review and Industry and Innovation amongst others, as well as presentations at conferences including  DRUID Society and Academy of Management during the lifespan of the ISC.

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