Dark Risk in complex infrastructure projects

Mega projects contain identifiable risks based on the performance of previous projects but unexpected problems seem to often emerge close to key dates with the stereotypical contemporary example being Berlin Brandenburg Airport that experienced major systems failure one month before its scheduled opening leading to a 24 month delay.

How can new projects address this type of obscure risk that frequently arises to disable their development programme or has their complexity exceeded the threshold of reliability of our current control methodologies?

Do large complex infrastructure projects always contain this ‘dark risk’ that is seemingly invisible to ordinary management techniques but which routinely delays projects toward the end of their construction phase? Has our technological hubris progressed faster than our programme management capability?

Our research into systemic risk within complex projects is starting to reveal a picture of how the separate entities within complex projects can interact in a detrimental manner and in a way not dissimilar to a financial market collapse.

We believe that the ability to model this interaction will shed new insights into what happens at the end of these projects and how this Dark Risk may be better understood and managed. The Institute intends to research and publish a number of papers on this subject, leading up to the publication of a book on the nature of Dark Risk in infrastructure projects.