If you read the business news you must be aware of the intense rivalry between the European Airbus Consortium and The Boeing Company dueling to capture the future commercial aircraft market. Both of these companies are in the final stages of major programs to deliver new generation airliners.
These are huge projects worth billions of dollars in both development costs and future sales. Both of these programs are significantly behind schedule and Airbus has a 50% cost overrun.
As a project manager, I enjoy reading about the successes and especially the tribulations of other projects, not for sadistic pleasure, but to try to understand and learn something both from their good decisions and also their mistakes.
This past Monday, Airbus delivered its first production A-380, a 550 passenger double deck mammoth which now becomes the world’s largest passenger airliner.
The planned $12 billion A-380 project is currently $6 billion overrun and two years late. Coincidently, this same week, Boeing announced that its new fuel efficient 787 Dreamliner using carbon nanotube and titanium skin technology will be 6 months late. Needless to say, both these projects are very complex state-of-the-art high technology development and production efforts under intense schedule pressures.
What can we learn from mega-projects likes these? It turns that mega-projects must deal with the same kind of detailed problems encountered on your own projects. Mega-projects are useful for lessons learning because even small violations of good project practices get magnified greatly and become highly visible for analysis. It’s not easy to hide even small mistakes on such large projects. Examining the root causes of problems in huge projects will likely reveal the violation of fundamental project management principles that apply to most projects.
Rather than give my views on the lessons to be learned for these projects, I would be interested in reading what you know and think it about them. Give us your insights. Don’t be shy, let’s have a good old fashion project retrospective and squeeze out the lessons to be learned from the big boys.