In the world of satellite dishes and cable networks watching TV is ironically becoming harder and harder.  In the old days the average household probably had access to a maximum 5-7 TV stations, how its more like 300.  One channel that has caught my attention though is Discovery.  This channel seems to have been able to blend entertainment with education.  The other day I was watching a program (I think its called extreme engineering) that showcases fascinating projects.  That particular episode discussed the widening of the Panama canal.  Even though the idea was a focus on engineering, most of the time was discussing the various elements of managing the project.

However, when it comes to widening the canal, calling the effort a project is really underestimating the magnitude of activities that have to be undertaken.  This is not simply building another lane for the canal as it involves a wide variety of projects ranging from dredging the lake, adding new lanes (which is like building a new canal), re-routing a river, and a whole host of other projects.  The “project” is really more like a program or even a portfolio of project.

This type of mega project is exactly the sort of project that can offer education value highlighting the need for project management and pointing out to young professionals and recent graduates the opportunity present in joining the ranks of the profession.

Building and construction projects have long been used as examples in project management training as the industry is intertwined with the profession.  Yet I wonder given this long term connection and experience if construction projects have a higher chance of success.  This is especially interesting if we look at some studies that highlight the failure rate of IT projects for instance.  While I don’t have data on success rates of construction projects, I wonder if failure within construction carries a bigger consequence that other IT or service orientated projects because the product of the project is a lot more visible/tangible? I suspect that this question would be difficult one to answer, however, from a pure magnitude perspective I believe that a lot more would be riding on this project than a small service project for example.

That is not to say however that failure on smaller projects is acceptable but rather that the impact on stakeholders and society at large is far greater on those mega projects.  If you have experience on mega projects please feel free to comment and offer your perspective.