How Big Things Get Done: The Surprising Factors Behind Every Successful Project, from Home Renovations to Space Exploration (Paperback)
  • How Big Things Get Done: The Surprising Factors Behind Every Successful Project, from Home Renovations to Space Exploration (Paperback)

How Big Things Get Done: The Surprising Factors Behind Every Successful Project, from Home Renovations to Space Exploration (Paperback)

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Paperback 304 Pages
Published: 04/04/2024
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Best Books of 2023 – The Financial Times and The Economist
Shortlisted for Financial Times and Schroders Business Book of the Year 2023

‘Important, timely, instructive and entertaining’ – Daniel Kahneman, bestselling author of Thinking, Fast and Slow

World expert Bent Flyvbjerg and bestselling author Dan Gardner reveal the secrets to successfully planning and delivering ambitious projects on any scale.

Nothing is more inspiring than a big vision that becomes a triumphant new reality. Think of how Apple’s iPod went from a project with a single employee to an enormously successful product launch in eleven months. But such successes are the exception. Consider how London’s Crossrail project delivered five years late and billions over budget. More modest endeavours, whether launching a small business, organizing a conference, or just finishing a work project on time, also commonly fail. Why?

Understanding what distinguishes the triumphs from the failures has been the life’s work of Oxford professor Bent Flyvbjerg. In How Big Things Get Done, he identifies the errors that lead projects to fail, and the research-based principles that will make yours succeed:

  • Understand your odds. If you don’t know them, you won’t win.
  • Plan slow, act fast. Getting to the action quick feels right. But it’s wrong.
  • Think right to left. Start with your goal, then identify the steps to get there.
  • Find your Lego. Big is best built from small.
  • Master the unknown unknowns. Most think they can’t, so they fail. Flyvbjerg shows how you can.

Full of vivid examples ranging from the building of the Sydney Opera House to the making of the latest Pixar blockbusters, How Big Things Get Done reveals how to get any ambitious project done – on time and on budget.

'Entertaining . . . compelling . . . there are lessons here for managers of all stripes' – The Economist

Publisher: Pan Macmillan
ISBN: 9781035018956
Number of pages: 304
Weight: 210 g
Dimensions: 197 x 130 x 20 mm


Important, timely, instructive and entertaining. What more could you ask for? - Daniel Kahneman, winner of the Nobel Prize in economics and author of Thinking, Fast and Slow

A wise, vivid and unforgettable combination of inspiring storytelling with decades of practical research and experience - Tim Harford, bestselling author of How to Make the World Add Up

Entertaining . . . compelling . . . there are lessons here for managers of all stripes - The Economist

Full of delicious anecdotes about project management disasters . . . Flyvbjerg and co-author Gardner succeed in extracting valuable lessons from these failures – and some occasional successes - Financial Times, 'FT business books: What to read this month'

Having researched the properties of planning errors, I am confident that nobody has studied the topic more broadly and deeply than Bent Flyvbjerg. His focus ranges from Olympic Games to the renovation of your dog house - Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Distinguished Professor of Risk Engineering, Tandon School of Engineering, New York University, and author of The Black Swan

My only complaint about this book is that it wasn’t written earlier. It distils decades of systematic research from thousands of projects. The result is a crystal-clear pattern of surprising reasons why almost all big human projects fail to deliver as expected - Ola Rosling, bestselling co-author of Factfulness

The best scientific advice on project planning. It is arguably the bargain of the century. For a few dollars you can tap into thousands of dollars of insights in executive-education classrooms - Philip Tetlock, bestselling co-author of Superforecasting

A truly fascinating read. There’s a practical pay-off, too: a toolbox with eleven smart heuristics for better project leadership that every planner should know - Gerd Gigerenzer, author of Gut Feelings

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