Hard Things Are Hard: Lessons for Complex Procurement Projects
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Hard Things Are Hard: Lessons for Complex Procurement Projects

1 February 2024


A recent book by Bent Flyvbjerg and Dan Gardner1 reveals the following sobering statistics regarding complex infrastructure projects: Only 47.9 per cent of such projects were delivered on budget, 8.5 per cent were delivered on budget and on time, and a mere 0.5 per cent of projects were delivered on budget, on time and with the intended benefits. The challenges that plague complex infrastructure projects are similar to those that hinder defence procurement. Canada’s 2017 Defence Review noted that complex military acquisition projects suffered from a number of challenges, including that “70 percent of all projects have not been delivered on time.”2 Other nations are also focused on accelerating major defence project deliveries. Australia’s recently released Defence Strategic Review states that “projects of high strategic importance … must be given special consideration for accelerated acquisition and delivery.”3 The U.K.’s House of Commons Defence Committee has raised similar concerns: “We also need a system which places greater value on time, (and) promotes a sense of urgency rather than institutional lethargy.”4 Troy Crosby, assistant deputy minister of the Materiel Group in National Defence Headquarters, in April 2023, said in an interview that if he were writing to Santa about industry, he would like to see “a shift in the balance away from business development … to provide the products you claimed you would be capable of delivering in the contracts you signed … and provide the equipment on time as specified in those contracts.”5 Understandably, as military procurement is a commercial business endeavour with international supply chains involved, it is subject to the global pressures of businesses. A recent report by the World Economic Forum (WEF) characterized today’s business environment as one of “polycrises,” laying out the compounding impacts of over 30 interdependent global crises.6

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canada procurement navy defence policy perspective defence resources nss ian mack