“Wicked Problems, Righteous Solutions” Back to the Future on Large Complex Projects

Robert Lane1 & Graham Woodman2

1Airside Civil Engineering Delivery Manager, BAA Terminal 5 Project Team, PO Box 620, Longford House, 420 Bath Road, Longford, West Drayton, England UB7 0NX (44)208 745 1628 FAX (44)208 745 2379, [email protected]
2Associate Director TPS Consult, The Landsdowne Building, Landsdowne Road, Croydon, CR0 2BX, England, (44)208 256 4226, FAX (44)208 256 4572, [email protected]


Most large, long and complex projects are “Wicked” Problems. To deal with change and uncertainty on such projects, the project Delivery Process (Definition, Design, Manufacture and Assembly) needs to be considered with the Development Process (Business case, statement of need, Functional Brief) as a total system. The Development Process needs to deliver a minimum usable subset of Business, Customer and Operational requirements to enable the Delivery process to start. In return the Delivery Process needs to improve flexibility to allow the Business, Customer and Operator to respond to changes due to technology improvements or market conditions and still improve efficiency and be “lean”. The project team for Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport has identified tools and techniques to help solve the wicked problems of Project Development and also to improve flexibility of Delivery through the use of Last Responsible Moment (LRM) for information transfer and decisions. These are established by working backwards from completion. The LRM concept together with lean techniques and “decoupled” project delivery systems has given a new view on traditional Project Management techniques and project processes. “The world’s most refreshing Interchange” project of Terminal 5 at Heathrow costing some £1.9Billion is starting the delivery process utilising LRM concepts in an information driven project system developed in-house using simple rules and a simple visual basic programme which links process mapping, planning & programming and information control


Last Responsible Moment, Information Driven Project System



Lane, R. & Woodman, G. 2000. “Wicked Problems, Righteous Solutions” Back to the Future on Large Complex Projects, 8th Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction , -. doi.org/

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