Uncovering the fragility of large-scale engineering projects
Université de Paris, INSERM U1284, Center for Research and Interdisciplinarity (CRI), F-75006, Paris, France
2 Network Science Institute and Department of Physics, Northeastern University, 02115, Boston, MA, USA
3 Nodes & Links Ltd, Station Road, CB1 2LA, Cambridge, UK
4 School of Economics and Management, University of Cyprus, 2109, Aglantzia, Cyprus
5 Initiative on the Digital Economy, MIT Sloan School of Management, 02142, Cambridge, MA, USA
Accepted: 22 June 2021
Published online: 8 July 2021
Engineering projects are notoriously hard to complete on-time, with project delays often theorised to propagate across interdependent activities. Here, we use a novel dataset consisting of activity networks from 14 diverse, large-scale engineering projects to uncover network properties that impact timely project completion. We provide empirical evidence of perturbation cascades, where perturbations in the delivery of a single activity can impact the delivery of up to 4 activities downstream, leading to large perturbation cascades. We further show that perturbation clustering significantly affects project overall delays. Finally, we find that poorly performing projects have their highest perturbations in high reach nodes, which can lead to largest cascades, while well performing projects have perturbations in low reach nodes, resulting in localised cascades. Altogether, these findings pave the way for a network-science framework that can materially enhance the delivery of large-scale engineering projects.
Key words: Activity networks / Network science / Spreading processes / Cascades / Project performance
© The Author(s) 2021
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