Riskwork in the construction of Heathrow Terminal 2

Vine, Rebecca (2021) Riskwork in the construction of Heathrow Terminal 2. Working Paper. Elsevier.

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Abstract

The failure to manage risk in large-scale infrastructure projects has attracted intense debate. Recommendations suggest rigorous planning and once the contract is in place, the narrative of account-giving emphasises constructing audit trails to assure delivery commitments. However, this can lead to blame avoidance and boundary preservation. This paper develops an in-depth case study of the construction of Heathrow Terminal 2 (T2). T2 was a £2.5bn project on the Eastern Campus of Heathrow Airport that successfully opened on time and to budget, despite an initial risk management ethos that emphasised boundary preservation. This is explored through the lens of riskwork, a form of everyday maintenance work that sustained risk management practice. A process methodology revealed a diachronic pattern of riskwork phases from initial concerns about ‘one version of the truth’ to strategising with a ‘dashboard’ to a final ‘golden thread’ engaging suppliers in risk talk. Progress was sustained by paying attention to which ‘residual’ categories of risk were excluded. As the programme progressed, riskwork became less about managing compliance and more about learning from emergence. This paper demonstrates an important relationship between innovation, learning from emergence and an adaptive riskwork infrastructure. It also describes an important role for mediatory instruments such as dashboards, reports and forums in making risks visible and actionable. It has significant implications for policy recommendations that oversimplify the management of risk into a form of accountability management that mitigates risks by demanding compliance. On a theoretical level it reveals the importance of temporality and path dependency in the study of riskwork infrastructures.

Item Type: Reports and working papers (Working Paper)
Keywords: Riskwork, Accountability, Infrastructure, Projects, Residual, Emergence, Innovation, Heathrow
Schools and Departments: University of Sussex Business School > Accounting and Finance
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Date Deposited: 09 Feb 2022 09:53
Last Modified: 25 Feb 2022 15:23
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/103584

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Project NameSussex Project NumberFunderFunder Ref
Improving Project Delivery (Project X)G2578ESRC-ECONOMIC & SOCIAL RESEARCH COUNCILES/S009841/1