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Hardwired for failure? Part One White Paper

White Paper

Hardwired for failure? Part One White Paper

White Paper

  • White Paper
  • Project management
  • Project planning
  • Project progress

Author  Richard Caton

March 7, 2018 |

 27 min read

  • White Paper
  • Project management
  • Project planning
  • Project progress

This is the first part of a two-part White Paper. The two parts of the paper explore:

  • the concept of cognitive biases from the field of psychology and the role they play in creating the conditions that lead to project failure; and
  • what the project management community can do in response to mitigate their impact.


High profile project failure makes for big news. Headlines speak of vast sums written off, share prices falling, reputations tarnished, executives resigning or being sacked and, crucially, the benefits to customers that organizations thought they were going to deliver are not realized. As a profession, it will always be our objective to reduce the prospect of project failure to a minimum. However, despite great progress over the last 50 years in developing project management best practices, there are still many significant and high-profile project failures.

Traditionally, the project management profession has sought to reduce the rates of project failure by looking to improve, or ensure better adherence to, the processes and principles that underpin our methodologies. This paper looks at some broader factors that are likely to be driving project failure, including organizational and management cultures. The main focus will be the impact of biases that are hardwired into the ways humans think and particularly the cognitive biases caused by ‘heuristics’ (see Chapter 2). These lead to unanticipated and potentially negative side effects which consequently drive project’s toward failure.

Organizational and management cultures can create environments where constructive criticism or negative feedback is unwelcome or shunned. The motivation and ambition to want to progress and innovate means unviable projects get approved. Costs and timescales are downplayed and benefits overstated.

Managers can be under pressure by a desire for progress from the organization and their superiors. They themselves have a big stake in seeing a project approved. They react by employing a strategy of ‘strategic misrepresentation’, which is the intentional distortion of facts and information to make them more palatable. These themes will be returned to later in the paper.

Part one of this paper will define project failure and look at its prevalence, particularly against the backdrop of the current aspirations for project management and promoted best practice. It will look at the traditional reasons given for why projects fail and the classic view of what we expect from people working on projects. It goes on to look at how organizational culture and human psychology have a role in increasing the propensity for projects to fail. It looks at how this creates the necessary conditions for sub-optimal project planning, decision making, authorization and reduced learning of lessons in projects. Part two of the White Paper looks at a number of cognitive biases in detail and how they map to key aspects of the project and programme management lifecycle. It goes onto provide a number of specific frameworks, tools, techniques, strategies and approaches for reducing the negative impact of cognitive biases with the ultimate goal of improving rates of project success.

Heuristics and cognitive biases - a primer

In psychology, heuristics are mental shortcuts or ‘rules of thumb’ that the brain uses subconsciously to make decisions or judgements. Heuristics have been very beneficial for humans throughout our existence as they have allowed us to navigate complex, challenging and dangerous environments quickly. They avoid the need for us to think consciously, deliberately and in detail about every single decision in day-to-day life. However, in a surprising number of circumstances, they can lead to decisions which are not rational or advantageous.

The concept of heuristics in human decision making grew out of the work of Herbert A. Simon and was further developed by Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman. They found increasing numbers of ways that people’s judgements and decisions differed from what one would rationally expect and found that these errors in judgement were systematic. The learning from their experiments grew beyond the world of academic psychology and reached into a wide range of disciplines. These included medicine and political science and particularly influenced thinking within behavioural economics. Their work in this field earnt Daniel Kahneman a share of the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 2002.

Cognitive biases are the errors in judgement that are the consequence of heuristics. Cognitive biases arise as a result of the brain operating different processing systems and of cognition (intuition and reasoning). In his book ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’1 Daniel Kahneman describes the different systems as System 1 (an automatic, fast operating system operating with little effort and no sense of voluntary control) and System 2 (that for which we require effortful mental activities and requiring concentration). Professor Steve Peter is the psychologist who was instrumental in the successful transformation of the British cycling team in the lead up to the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. In his book ‘The Chimp Paradox’2, he describes the inner mind comprising of the computer (for automatic processes), the chimp (the limbic/emotion driven element) and the human (pre-frontal cortex/rational element). Perhaps the best analogy comes via Jonathan Haidt in his book the ‘Happiness Hypothesis’3, in which he separates the controlled, reasoned and rational self from the automatic, implicit and emotional self. His analogy sees a rider on top of an elephant. The rider represents our rational side and the elephant our emotional side. The rider holds the reins and is generally in control of the elephant. But should the elephant disagree with the rider, the rider will be overpowered by the elephant’s will.

So, the side effect of heuristics are cognitive biases and cognitive biases ultimately mean that people delude themselves. They believe that things will be better than rational analysis might predict. They systematically, unknowingly, accidentally but consistently deviate from the response a rational person would make given sufficient time and information. This leads to them overestimating benefits and underestimating time and costs. Dan Ariely, Professor of Behavioural Economics at MIT describes human beings as being ‘predictably irrational’.4

‘When told that man lives in delusion, everyone thinks of himself as the exception; hence his delusion...’ Vernon Howard

What value does the thinking around heuristics and cognitive biases bring to PPM?

This White Paper examines the hardwired heuristics which drive the way human beings think and looks at their role in creating the conditions that cause projects to fail. Cognitive biases affect our ability to analyse evidence, forecast likelihood of success, plan accurately, make sound decisions and look back at our work objectively. They have an impact right across all the aspects of project and programme management stages, tranches, phases and lifecycles. Having an awareness of these heuristics and cognitive biases and how they manifest themselves should help the PPM community be on the look out for them in live projects. This should provide a better opportunity to defend against their negative consequences.

The paper is a review and summary of studies and information from the world of psychology and behavioural economics. It makes comparisons to the project management world with a view to understanding project failure from a different perspective to that which project management thinking has traditionally used. This is a less explored way of approaching the subject. There is currently little empirical research around the topics discussed in this paper that has been done directly from the perspective of project management. The ideas around this subject area came originally from academic research. In that regard, the thinking and the parallels to project management are given as hypotheses. They are presented in an exploratory context with a view to prompting readers to consider their own histories, experiences and observations of having been involved in projects. It is hoped that this will spur further thinking and discussion across the community and advance our understanding.

What is project failure?

Given how much the PPM community discusses project failure, there is no clear, fixed, agreed definition. There are many discussions on how to prevent project failure, though fewer on what project failure actually means. The Standish Group5 previously defined successful projects as ‘on time, on budget and on target with some reasonable flexibility’6. Challenged projects were considered ‘late, over budget or not meeting targets’. Failed projects were ‘cancelled or not adopted by the users’7. It has recently changed its definition to be more nuanced; as well as time and budget, the concept of being ‘on target’ comprises elements such as percentage requirements met, satisfaction, value, and the extent to which strategic corporate goals are met.8

For the purposes of this paper, we will define a failed project as one that:

  • is cancelled with large sums written off and/or
  • has missed business critical milestones and/or
  • is significantly over budget, particularly where the longer-term value, return or benefits do not mitigate this and/or
  • has products or outputs that are fundamentally not fit for purpose and/or
  • has poor take up by users.

The track record of project failure

Projects fail routinely and systematically. The oft-quoted reports looking at project failure such as the annual CHAOS Report by the Standish Group or reports from the UK Government Public Accounts Committee make for grim reading for people involved in project management and those who see the work that is done by project managers as a vital force for change, transformation and improving the world in which we live.

The first CHAOS report by the Standish Group was published in 1994. It highlighted that 31% of software projects were cancelled before completion, with 53% of projects costing 189% of their original budget estimate. Only 16% were completed on time and on budget. Large companies fared worse with only 9% hitting time and budget estimates and only delivering 42% of features. Sadly, there has been no significant improvement in success rates since that time.9

  • The CHAOS 2015 report states, 29% of studied projects are seen as successful,
  • 52% as challenged and 19% as failed.10
  • Research between McKinsey and University of Oxford in 2012, found half of large IT projects with budgets of over $15 million ran 45% over budget and 7% over time and delivered less than half of the expected value. 17% went 200% over budget and in some cases 400% over budget and risked pushing companies into bankruptcy.11
  • Geneca, a software development company found that of 600 business and IT executives, 75% believed their projects were doomed from the start with 80% of people spending half their time on rework and around half feeling that they understood the business objectives of their projects.12
  • In December 2013, the National Audit Office (NAO) stated that 95% of UK government policies were delivered by major projects and that year’s portfolio had 191 projects worth £354 billion but that ‘historically, the majority of major projects in government have not delivered the anticipated benefits within the original time and cost expectations.’13
  • For June 2015, the NAO valued the whole life cost of the UK Government Major Projects Portfolio at £511 billion across 149 projects noting that the Major Projects Authority had concerns for one third of the portfolio where successful delivery was in doubt or unachievable unless action was taken.14

Specific Case Studies around projects that have seen failure also make for sobering reading.

  • The NHS Care Records IT System which at the time was the world’s largest civil IT project, was abandoned in 2012 with write-off costs of £9.8 billion.15
  • SNCF procured 2000 new trains at a cost of £12 billion which subsequently transpired to be too wide for more than 1000 regional stations which were historically built to differing dimensions.16
  • The US Military wasted $28 million on uniforms in Afghanistan procuring an inappropriate camouflage pattern. US Officials had surfed the internet for a design choosing a forest pattern even though only 2% of Afghanistan is wooded. To compound matters, they had chosen a pattern under license requiring extra budget rather than a pattern already available to the US Army.17

But there is one big caveat we need to consider: we must remember that we are seeking to deliver unique initiatives that have never been tried before. Given this, if every project was considered a complete success, it would suggest we were not being ambitious enough. Failure is a necessary component of innovation. As a comparator, in 2015 the market research company Nielsen found just 0.2% of nearly 10,000 product launches were breakthrough innovations.18

Whilst we will always want to avoid absolute project failure as defined above, realistically, every project of significant scale and complexity will encounter challenges that drive up expected costs and extend delivery schedules. Given that very few projects are absolutely successful or fail absolutely, we should recognize that success is a sliding scale and not a binary concept. Projects which are not successful versus their original scopes may be seen in the longer term very positively; examples include St Paul’s Cathedral in London, UK and the Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia both of which were considerably late versus original projections.

Project failure in context

With megaprojects alone (those valued at $1 billion or more) making up 8% of global GDP19, reducing the rate of project failure is an issue of critical importance. However, the standard approaches that we use to manage projects would seem to not be reducing project failure rates sufficiently to match the ambitions of those who have set out their aspirations for our profession:

  • ‘Projects and programmes should be delivered within cost, on time, delivering the anticipated benefits.’ Sir Peter Gershon – HM Government efficiency adviser.
  • ‘A world in which all projects succeed with project management as a life skill for all.’ Association for Project Management (APM) 2020 vision20.

The statistics and case studies given earlier demonstrate we are worlds away from meeting our profession’s aspirations. The evidence points to poor planning and performance, going over budget, over time, not delivering quality goals or the planned benefits. The failure that we see is not isolated or rare, it is ingrained and it is systemic.

Project and programme management is a mature profession. It has existed in its modern form with the use of identified project managers and the systematic application of recognizable project management techniques since the 1950s, growing out from the fields of civil engineering and defence. There is a wealth of experience and project data to draw on. The industry has significant access to an enormous pool of competence and knowledge; globally, more than 1 million PRINCE2 exams have been taken21.

PRINCE2 consolidates best practice approaches which include learning from experience mechanisms that are built in at their core. These are events that are captured and shared, with many causes of project failure which are well documented and understood as a result, leading to lessons learnt that will ideally apply to subsequent projects. And of course, we are motivated to avoid project failure. The organizational and personal reputational damage from project failure is potentially huge as well as the substantial financial losses that often come with it. We could fairly assume that, except for in the rarest of circumstances, nobody sets out to work on a failed project.

Consequently, it would seem the competence, knowledge, skills, experience and motivation should be in place to enable a high percentage of project success. Against that backdrop, we have spent years advocating similar solutions for reducing the likelihood of project failure, but it is clear that what we are currently promoting is not enough to meet our requirements. Agile and related methodologies such as PRINCE2 Agile have provided a paradigm shift in the way projects are approached. However, current approaches that look to improve project failure have a tendency to externalize the issues from those individuals working on a project. We think of a lack of planning, lack of stakeholder management, a lack of strategic alignment, inadequate controls and inconsistent approaches. The software industry-focused 2015 CHAOS Report concludes:

‘…over the last 20 years the project management field has experienced increasing layers of project management processes, tools, governance, compliance, and oversight. Yet these activities and products have done nothing to improve project success.’22

This paper argues that we need to hold up a mirror to ourselves and the people we immediately work with to better understand why projects fail in the way that they do.

Why do project fail? Traditional thinking

In 1995, at the Standish Group’s first CHAOS University, Martin Cobb, Secretariat of the Treasury Board of Canada stated: “We know why projects fail, we know how to prevent their failure, so why do they still fail?” This has subsequently become known as Cobb’s Paradox.

Common reasons are given for project failure. This is a historic list, derived from the former Office of Government Commerce (OGC)23:

1. Lack of clear links between the project and the organization’s key strategic priorities, including agreed measures of success.

2. Lack of clear senior management, ownership and leadership.

3. Lack of effective engagement with stakeholders.

4. Lack of skills and proven approach to project management and risk management.

5. Too little attention to breaking development and implementation into manageable steps.

6. Evaluation of proposals driven by initial price rather than long-term value for money (especially securing delivery of business benefits).

7. Lack of understanding of, and contact with the supply industry at senior levels in the organization.

8. Lack of effective project team integration between clients, the supplier team and the supply chain. And a list from the NAO about initiating successful projects24:

1. Purpose: having clarity on the overall priorities and desired outcomes;

2. Affordability: understanding what delivery will cost and not being over-optimistic;

3. Pre-commitment: having robust internal assessment and challenge to establish if the project is feasible;

4. Project set-up: the detailed specification, procurement, contract and incentive design; and

5. Delivery and variation management: maintaining delivery pressure throughout the life of the contract and flexibility to recover the integrity of the project in light of unanticipated events or significant variations from the original plan.

As a profession, we have invested phenomenal sums in methodologies, training and in capturing and sharing lessons. Companies and organizations have followed the advice from the PPM profession about what is best practice and what is the best way of limiting, to its minimum, the risk of project failure.

Given the statistics and Case Studies above, one conclusion could be that we are using the wrong tools for the job. However, this paper is not advocating that; the logic that underpins our toolkits is sound. But this paper is proposing that we need to look in parallel at other factors alongside our classic view of project, programme and change management.

The classic view of those working in projects – rational and compliant

The classic view of project management has (command and) control as its centrepiece: plan it right and it will go to plan. The expectation is that outstanding planning will consequentially lead to project success. An oft-quoted management phrase is ‘proper planning prevents poor performance.’

The common reasons given for project failure generally highlight aspects that could have been improved by better planning. Better planning would suggest better governance, better controls, more robust management tools, more rigour, better process, better reporting. The reasons given tend to focus on the ‘hard’ elements of project management, those relating to processes, systems and principles, very much less so on the ‘softer’ elements around relationships, organizational culture and human psychology.

8.1 Morgan’s Organizational Metaphors

Gareth Morgan in his book, ‘Images of Organization’ explored how organizations operate using eight Organizational Metaphors25. Cameron and Green in their book on change management identify four of these which are most useful in considering how change works26. These are:

  • Organizations as machines Organizations as political systems Organizations as organisms
  • Organizations as a system of flux and transformation.

They say that under the machine metaphor, the assumptions are that organizations can be changed to a proposed end state by those in authority, that resistance can be managed and that change can be executed if well controlled and well managed. PPM Practitioners may primarily be considering organizations or work environments in this machine context. After all, PRINCE2 stands for PRojects IN Controlled Environments. We work on the underlying assumption that the frameworks put control into the projects and that in following the framework, projects will go to plan. But Morgan’s Organizational Metaphors suggest that other major forces are at play. James Lawley lists concepts associated with the various metaphors27.

  • Machine – order, clockwork, control.
  • Organism – living systems, environmental conditions, needs, homeostasis, evolution, survival of the fittest.
  • Political systems – power, hidden agendas and back room deals, alliances, party-lines, censorship, gatekeepers, conflict management.
  • Flux and transformation – constant change, dynamic equilibrium, self-organization, chaos, complexity, butterfly effect, paradox.

PRINCE2 Agile and other agile approaches enable a way to pick up the concepts under flux and transformation; but are we as practitioners attending to the other concepts sufficiently inside our own projects and programmes?

8.2 Are people working on projects as rational and obedient as we assume?

Sociologists and economists often refer to a species called Homo Economicus, that is a rational human that seeks to maximize personal utility at minimal cost and will consistently choose these self-determined optimal best choices. Thaler and Sunstein in their 2009 book ‘Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness’, differentiate between this Homo Economicus which is described as being able to ‘think like Albert Einstein, store as much memory as IBM’s Big Blue and exercise the will power of Mahatma Gandhi’ and the mere mortals, Homo Sapiens28, in other words, the rest of us.

For project management we could perhaps add in another species: Homo Obedientus. Like highly disciplined and unquestioning soldiers, these compliant colleagues work on projects adhering to what is laid down in the plan and always striving to achieve the stated organizational goals. Our project and programme management frameworks and our supporting tools such as Microsoft Project, rely on having these Homo Obedientuses working on our change initiatives.

Our project frameworks and tools can give us the veneer of confidence that projects have more order and are more in control that they perhaps are. We apply the same thinking over and over again with the expectation that the outcome on projects will be different. As a quote which is famously attributed to Albert Einstein goes: ‘Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.’

The behavioural view of those working on projects

In reality, human beings have individual traits, motivations, emotions and fallibilities. Their behaviour is not always consistent and can vary dramatically depending on a variety of internal or external factors. The behavioural view focuses on the way in which individuals actually behave and make decisions. It runs on the premise that humans can be inconsistent, selfish, and their decision-making irrational. An understanding of the systematic cognitive biases that affect the way we think and act is necessary to provide a fuller understanding of how the rational processes of project management can be derailed by the real-world human decision-making process. As research carried out by Barry Shore shows, ‘the skills and techniques expressed in the rational view of project management, regardless of how aggressively they are pursued, may be insufficient to assure project success.’29

Bent Flyvbjerg, the first professor and chair of major programme management at Oxford University, started looking at project failure from a wider perspective. Looking back over 70 years’ worth of data, he shows accuracy in cost forecasts has not improved. His research30 has looked into three different areas:

  • Technical explanations.
  • Political-economic explanations or strategic representation; in business speak: being economical with the truth; in lay terms: lying or deceit.
  • Psychological explanations particularly optimism bias, a type of self-delusion.

He describes technical explanations as being caused by unreliable or outdated data and the use of inappropriate forecasting models. To this we might add the skills, capacity, competence and knowledge elements that traditionally have been the main focus when we have tried to reduce the rates of project failure: the ‘harder’ elements of project management looked at above. But Flyvbjerg finds that psychological and political-economic reasons are better at explaining inaccurate forecasts and project failure.

Looking at political-economic factors, he used the phrase ‘strategic misrepresentation’ originally coined by Jones and Euske31 which is a euphemism for intentional deception or lying. There is a deliberate overestimation of benefits and an underestimation of costs. Distortion is put on information in order to get the green light for projects. He cites organizational pressure as a reason for this. This includes trying to get ahead of peers, competing for scarce resources, or a culture that rewards results in the short term. A general desire for progress, innovation and action are other factors. It can also be driven by the culture of a company where those offering constructive criticism or negative feedback are seen as naysayers and shunned, whereas those who are unfailingly optimistic are rewarded. Managers, and perhaps to a greater degree, project staff may feel a pressure to gain approval for a project in order to justify their role in the organization. If they rationally decided that a much higher proportion of project proposals were unlikely to succeed and did not put forward any, they may soon be out of a job. People may not consider strategic misrepresentation to be a big problem. However, 45% of managers say they have done this.32

San Francisco’s $4.5 billion Transbay Transit Center is a good Case Study of this. The former mayor of San Francisco, Willie Brown said in a July 2013 San Francisco Chronicle newspaper column:

‘News that the Transbay Terminal is something like $300 million over budget should not come as a shock to anyone. We always knew the initial estimate was way under the real cost. In the world of civic projects, the first budget is really just a down payment. If people knew the real cost from the start, nothing would ever be approved. The idea is to get going. Start digging a hole and make it so big, there’s no alternative to coming up with the money to fill it in.’33

Alongside political-economic explanations and strategic misrepresentation, Flyvbjerg also looked at what he called psychological explanations focusing most centrally on optimism bias. Part Two of this the paper will look at optimism bias but also a much wider set of cognitive biases and consider their role in unsuccessful project delivery.


In part one of this White Paper, a definition for project failure has been given. It has then looked at the extent of project failure against the backdrop of the current aspirations for project management and promoted best practice. It looked at the traditional reasons given for why projects fail and the classic view of what we expect from people working on projects. It has then then gone on to look at this from a behavioural view and how organizational culture and human psychology have a role in increasing the propensity for projects to fail.

  • Hindsight bias.
    • Part two will go on to look at a number of specific cognitive biases in detail and how they map to key aspects of the project and programme management lifecycle.

      These are:

      • Confirmation bias
      • Anchoring effect
      • Optimism bias
      • Overconfidence
      • Planning fallacy
      • Endowment effect / sunk cost fallacy
      • Choice support bias
      • It will then provide a number of frameworks, tools, techniques, strategies and approaches for reducing the negative impact of cognitive biases with the ultimate goal of improving rates of project success.

      Questions for reflection

      • Thinking about Morgan’s Organizational Metaphors, do you see traits of political systems, organisms and flux and transformation as well as the machine metaphor in your projects?
      • Have you seen examples of strategic misrepresentation where benefits are deliberately overstated and/or costs deliberately understated to suit a particular preferred course of action?
      • Are projects open enough to considering inconvenient facts and opinions or are those side-lined or ignored? Do projects stop as they should, based on rational economic arguments or are reasons found to press ahead?

      End Notes

      1 Kahneman, D. (2011) Thinking Fast and Slow. Penguin: London. Pp. 21

      2 Peters, S. (2012) The Chimp Paradox: The Mind Management Programme to Help You Achieve Success, Confidence and Happiness. Vermillion: Croydon.

      3 Haidt, J. (2007) The Happiness Hypothesis: Putting Ancient Wisdom to the Test of Modern Science. Arrow Books, London.

      4 Ariely, D. (2008) Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions. Harper Collins: London.

      5 The Standish Group is a primary research advisory organization that focuses on software project performance. It has published an annual study of project failure in the software development industry called the CHAOS report since 1994.

      6 Available from: [accessed: 26th February 2018].

      7 Available from:

      8 Available from: [accessed: 26th February 2018].

      9 Jørgensen, M. and Moløkken, K. (2006) ‘How Large Are Software Cost Overruns? A Review of the 1994 CHAOS Report’. Available at: [accessed: 26th February 2018].

      10 Available from: [accessed: 26th February 2018].

      11 Available from: large-scale-it-projects-on-time-on-budget-and-on-value [accessed: 26th February 2018].

      12 Available from: [accessed: 26th February 2018].

      13 Available from: [accessed: 26th February 2018].

      14 Available from: [accessed: 26th February 2018].

      15 Available from: [accessed: 26th February 2018].

      16 Available from: [accessed: 26th February 2018].

      17 Available from: [accessed: 26th February 2018].

      18 Borthwick, M. (2017) ‘Failure – the Mother of Innovation’, Trust, Autumn issue, pp.46-49.

      19 Flyvbjerg, B. (2014), ‘What You Should Know about Megaprojects and Why: An Overview’ Project Management Journal, 45(2), pp. 6-19.

      20 Available from: [accessed: 26th February 2018].

      21 Available from: [accessed: 26th February 2018].

      22 Available from: [accessed: 26th February 2018].

      23 Available from: [accessed: 26th February 2018].

      24 Available from: [accessed: 26th February 2018].

      25 Cameron, E. and Green, M. Making Sense of Change Management. 3rd edition. Kogan Page Limited: London. Pp108-118.

      26 Lawley, J. (2001) ‘Metaphors of Organization – Part 1’, Effective Consulting, 1(4). Downloadable pdf available here: Part_1 [accessed: 26th February 2018).

      27 Sunstein, C. and Thaler, R. (2009) Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness. Penguin: Michigan, USA. Pp. 7.

      28 Shore, B. (2008). ‘Systematic biases and culture in project failures’, Project Management Journal, 39(4), 5–16.

      29 Flyvbjerg, B. (January, 2008) ‘Curbing Optimism Bias and Strategic Misrepresentation in Planning: Reference Class Forecasting in Practice’, European Planning Studies, 16(1), pp. 3-21; Flyvbjerg, B. and Garbuio, M. and Lovallo, D. ‘Delusion and Deception in Large Infrastructure Projects: Two Models for Explaining and Preventing Executive Disaster’, California Management Review, 51(2), pp. 170-193.

      30 Jones, L.R. and Euske, K.J. (1991) ‘Strategic Misrepresentation in Budgeting’, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 1(4), pp. 437-460.

      31 Available from: referencing University of British Columbia MBA program / Project Confessions: Project Governance and Oversight research BASC-521 – Chasles, Klug, Wood, Puaux, Spedtsberg [accessed: 26th February 2018].

      32 Flyvbjerg, B. (2014), ‘What You Should Know about Megaprojects and Why: An Overview’, Project Management Journal, 45(2), pp. 6-19.

      About the Author

      Richard Caton has been involved in project and programme management for over 20 years. He is currently Head of the Regeneration Divisional Programme Office at the London Borough of Hackney. Previously in Hackney he has managed programmes relating to organizational culture change, transforming adult social care and elements relating to the borough’s response to London 2012, as well as developing Hackney’s approach to project management.

      Richard Caton- authorRichard is a champion of sharing and developing PPM best practice. He was a founder of the Project and Programme Management Community of Practice, an online network primarily for local and regional government to develop and share best practice which has grown to over 1,800 members. He is also Chair of the London PPM Forum for local and regional government PPM Practitioners. He is a regular reviewer of PPM best practice guides including P3O, P3M3 and Management of Portfolios and contributes to sector best practice such as the APM’s Public Sector Group Research Report.

      Over the past five years, Richard has studied psychology and behavioural economics modules through institutions such as Duke University, the University of Toronto and the University of Queensland via Coursera, edX and other MOOC (massive open online course) platforms. His interest in these fields and their potential application to better understanding the causes of project failure has culminated in this White Paper.

      Hardwired for failure? Part One