title. Innatural Green
name. Virgilio Da Molo
right now. working as a management consultant at Impact Strategy Consulting
I hope that the learned readers of this luxurious ezine remember the concept of “small is beautiful” introduced in the Red issue. It’s time to bring it back again because there is no other colour that “big is ugly” wears better than innatural green.
Look at something large, such as an infrastructure project, anywhere in the world – like a big dam, a large power plant, a huge irrigation scheme, an intricate road interchange – and you might see signs of three irreversible scars:
Unforeseen environmental/health consequences –all projects should of course comply with environmental considerations and laws; however, understanding and closely predicting the impact of projects is not an easy task (and the larger the project, the worse it becomes) and it is also quite expensive; all the work is usually done by the investor and therefore might be a bit biased...; mistakes in predicting the impact are usually followed by mistakes in execution; in the end, shit happens and the bigger the shit the more you get dirty
Cost and time overruns (and corruption) over and over – completing a large project on time, within budget and performing as per specs is considered as a huge achievement; that is, what should be the norm, is the exception; large projects are bottomless wells where billions of trillions just vape out; the sheer size of the pie attracts all sorts of parasitic behaviours from people who thoroughly enjoy the magnamagna opportunity; some of those gazillions could be used for better goals
Mismatch of expectations – large projects thrive on huge expectations; creating those expectations is critical to raise the money for the project and is more an art than a science; so you might build large stadiums and arenas for large events such as a soccer World Cup or Olympics games and then find out that those stadiums are just too large, and it is better to knock them down and take a big once off loss than keeping them and letting them drain your finances forever and ever
Projects are not the only way in which big can be ugly wearing innatural green.
Widespread urbanisation across the developing world has led to the expansion of large cities in an innatural and inhuman way.
In the business world, size drives mergers and acquisitions, which have the unenviable record of failing most of the time.
In politics/government, you seriously want to stay away from large majority parties which swallow democracy in a single gulp and regurgitate it in an amorphous state.
Even when looking at people, c’mon, who is more likely to be aggressive hence unpleasant, a little sissy or a big lad?
So, now that the concept of small is beautiful (BTW, you may want to read Small is beautiful written by Frits Schumacher in 1973) is proven without doubt, we can move to the next pearl of wisdom for my learned readers.
Did I say without any doubt? Well, I lied, because we should always remind ourselves that “when you are sure of something, then doubt of yourself”.
Peace and love
P.S. CURIOSITY KILLED THE CAT
For those who wish to know more, there is plenty of literature on why large projects fail, especially articles in respected business magazines such as the Harvard Business Review or the McKinsey Quarterly. Unfortunately, these articles are always written by the same people who keep on assisting large companies in making large projects fail. Anyhow, besides the validity of the analysis and recommendations, these articles can contain interesting and up to date data and statistics on the rate of failure for various types of projects.
You can also find more specialised and independent opinions such as https://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1303/1303.7403.pdf which reports that “For example, in one study of major projects in 20 countries, nine out of ten projects had cost overruns” – nine out of ten; well done to the one!
Once you have read all the stuff, you will finally see the reality: large projects fail because...they are large.