Evaluating megaprojects: from the “iron triangle” to network mapping

Article English OPEN
Lehtonen, Markku (2014)

Evaluation literature has paid relatively little attention to the specific needs of evaluating large, complex industrial and infrastructure projects, often called ‘megaprojects’. The abundant megaproject governance literature, in turn, has largely focused on the so-called ‘megaproject pathologies’, i.e. the chronic budget overruns, and failure of such projects to keep to timetables and deliver the expected social and economic benefits. This article draws on these two strands of literature, identifies shortcomings, and suggests potential pathways towards an improved evaluation of megaprojects. To counterbalance the current overemphasis on relatively narrowly defined accountability as the main function of megaproject evaluation, and the narrow definition of project success in megaproject evaluation, the article argues that conceptualizing megaprojects as dynamic and evolving networks would provide a useful basis for the design of an evaluation approach better able to promote learning and to address the socio economic aspects of megaprojects. A modified version of ‘network mapping’ is suggested as a possible framework for megaproject evaluation, with the exploration of the multiple accountability relationships as a central evaluation task, designed to reconcile learning and accountability as the central evaluation functions. The article highlights the role of evaluation as an ‘emergent’ property of spontaneous megaproject ‘governing’, and explores the challenges that this poses to the role of the evaluator.
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