Riskwork in the construction of Heathrow Terminal 2

Vine, Rebecca (2020) Riskwork in the construction of Heathrow Terminal 2. Working Paper. Elsevier.

[img] PDF - Accepted Version
Restricted to SRO admin only

Download (1MB)


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. This paper develops an in-depth case study of Heathrow Terminal 2 (T2), a £2.5bn construction programme that successfully opened on time and to budget in 2014 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 the infrastructure of risk management. A process methodology is adopted to trace the development of the programme into riskwork phases from concerns about ‘one version of the truth’ to strategising with a ‘dashboard’ to a ‘golden thread’ engaging suppliers in interactive risk talk. This paper demonstrates an important relationship between adaptive risk management infrastructures, innovation and the benefits of learning from emergence. It describes a central role for mediatory instruments such as dashboards, reports and forums in making risks visible and actionable. On a theoretical level it reveals the importance of temporality and path dependency in studying the formation of riskwork infrastructures. It also has important practical implications for policy recommendations that oversimplify the management of risk into a form of accountability management that mitigates risks by demanding compliance. On T2 progress was sustained by paying attention to which ‘residual’ categories of risk were excluded from the risk management architecture. As the programme progressed, riskwork became less about managing compliance and more about learning from emergence.

Item Type: Reports and working papers (Working Paper)
Additional Information: SSRN link https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3755049
Keywords: Riskwork, Accountability, Infrastructure, Projects, Residual, Emergence, Innovation, Heathrow
Schools and Departments: University of Sussex Business School > Accounting and Finance
SWORD Depositor: Mx Elements Account
Depositing User: Mx Elements Account
Date Deposited: 05 Jan 2021 07:50
Last Modified: 22 Jul 2022 14:27
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/96251

View download statistics for this item

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