Make Megaprojects More Modular

Research output: Journal Article or Conference Article in JournalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


In conventional business and government megaprojects—such as hydroelectric dams, chemical-processing plants, or big-bang enterprise-resource-planning systems—the standard approach is to build something monolithic and customized. Such projects must be 100% complete before they can deliver benefits: Even when it’s 95% complete, a nuclear reactor is of no use. In this article, the author argues that two factors play a critical role in determining success or failure: modularity in design and speed in iteration. The article examines those factors by looking at well-known megaprojects, both successful ones and cautionary tales. It argues that "What's our LEGO?" is a key question for big projects. If you don't have a LEGO, you need to find one, or your project will be slow, expensive, and failure prone. If you have one, replicate and learn, over and over, to shorten delivery, bring down costs, and get to your revenues and benefits sooner.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHarvard Business Review
Issue numberNovember-December
Pages (from-to)58-63
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021


  • Modularity
  • Replicability
  • Speed
  • Scale-up
  • Negative Learning
  • Positive Learning


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