Forced and Fumbled Scale-Up

Dumb scale-up is bad. Forced scale-up is worse because it wastes resources faster. Fumble scale-up, and you die.

Bent Flyvbjerg
Geek Culture

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I covered smart scale-up and dumb scale-up in two previous articles. Here I focus on two further types of scale-up: Forced and fumbled.

Forced scale-up designates the combination of a one-off, bespoke design and its high-speed delivery. This will typically result in a product of low quality, because it is difficult to deliver bespoke designs at speed. For ventures with forced scale-up, speed is typically imposed from the outside, for instance by pressure from top management or politicians for monumental prestige projects, or by the project running up against an immovable deadline, as in the case of mega-events.

Hosting the Olympics

Hosting the Olympics or the FIFA World Cup are examples of forced scale-up, with their typical combination of bespoke signature architecture — notorious for being late and over budget — and a deadline written in stone that hosts almost always have difficulty meeting. Cost overrun for the Olympic Games is higher than for any other type of megaproject, at 172 percent on average in real terms (Flyvbjerg et al. 2020).*

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Bent Flyvbjerg
Geek Culture

Professor Emeritus, University of Oxford; Professor, IT University of Copenhagen. Writes about project management. https://www.linkedin.com/in/flyvbjerg/