Category Archives: My Research

A light hearted look at uncertainty

Here’s a little light reading from Manuela Saragosa of the BBC on the topic of uncertainty, although it still contains some essential truths about how we respond to uncertainties that we face.


1. that we humans are not that good at dealing with uncertainty
2. that we suffer from “ambiguity aversion” – a desire to know what the risks are and what options we have
3. that we prefer risks with numbers attached, rather than open ended uncertainties even when those numbers may themselves be laden with uncertainty or even unreliable.

The BBC article is available here How to deal with uncertainty

Enjoy (courtesy of the BBC)






Fragile, emergent and contingent: evidence for high reliability project organising in safety-critical projects

Our latest paper, available here, makes two important contributions to project management theory and practice within large-scale safety-critical projects. Reliable ImageFirst, we extend the theory of high reliability organising from the high-tempo operational context into the slower paced, yet still complex and highly-consequential environment of the safety-critical project. Secondly, our research found evidence of many practices in safety-critical projects that are consistent with high reliability project organising in response to uncertain situations. However these practices were often fragile, emergent and contingent and less deeply embedded within the host project organisation than proponents of high reliability theory might wish for. Continue reading Fragile, emergent and contingent: evidence for high reliability project organising in safety-critical projects

Approaches to managing project uncertainty in safety-critical environments

The challenges presented by uncertainty are magnified in large-scale safety-critical projects where project failure could easily result in reputational damage, loss of public confidence as well as physical damage to people and the environment; remember the severity of the reputational damage to BP caused by the Macondo Well blow-out in the Gulf of Mexico 2010. Deepwater_Horizon_offshore_drilling_unit_on_fire_2010

Indeed, most decisions that are made on a safety-critical project involve uncertainty, the consequences of which may be highly significant to the safe and timely delivery of the project.  Based on interviews with project managers on 9 large-scale civil nuclear and aerospace projects, our latest research here explores how these uncertainties emerge, and how project managers identify, analyse and act on them. Continue reading Approaches to managing project uncertainty in safety-critical environments

Uncertainty creates a kaleidoscope of influences on safety-critical projects

Project managers tasked with delivering safety-critical projects must demonstrate care, EDF safety picturecompetence and confidence right from the earliest stages of project inception, when levels of uncertainty can be very high. Based on interviews with 30 project management practitioners on nine large-scale safety-critical projects in civil nuclear and aerospace sectors, our latest research (published here in the International Journal of Project Management) presents the Uncertainty Kaleidoscope as a comprehensive framework for identifying project uncertainties. Continue reading Uncertainty creates a kaleidoscope of influences on safety-critical projects

Towards High Reliability Project Organising

My research paper entitled Towards high-reliability project organising in safety-critical projects has just hit the newsstands in the latest issue of Project Management Journal.

High Reliability Organizations (HROs) claim to be special organizations, which have demonstrated consistently safe performance in operating environments which are simultaneously of high technical complexity, high consequence and high tempo. This paper argues that the literature on high reliability organizing, which emerged through studying day-to-day operations in the nuclear industry, air traffic control and US navy aircraft carriers, might hold important lessons for how the project management community can approach the management of safety-critical projects – projects in which safety is of paramount importance. Such projects might include the safe decommissioning of civil nuclear assets, the building of new nuclear power plants, the development of new oil and gas extraction facilities or the design of new aircraft engines. Much will be demanded of the individuals tasked with delivering these large-scale, complex and highly consequential projects.   So what lessons can these individuals take from high reliability theory? And, how might high reliability organizing be realized in these safety-critical projects? Continue reading Towards High Reliability Project Organising