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Pursuing relevance and sustainability: Improvement strategies for major public projects

Ole Jonny Klakegg (Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Trondheim, Norway)

International Journal of Managing Projects in Business

ISSN: 1753-8378

Article publication date: 11 September 2009




The purpose of this paper is to identify effective strategies to improve the governance of public projects. This paper investigates the challenges in the front end of major public investment projects and identifies problems leading to lack of relevance and sustainability. It is argued that these are the most important problems from a strategic perspective. Effective improvement strategies are derived from this perspective.


The results of a survey are presented, elaborating on the assessments of 80 international senior experts, supplemented with in‐depth interviews. The results are analysed and compared with published literature.


Lack of relevance comes from projects not linking to users' needs and from unclear objectives. Lack of sustainability comes from unsolved conflict over objectives, lack of commitment, and faulty economic assumptions. This knowledge leads to identification of effective improvement strategies for existing governance frameworks.

Research limitations/implications

The results can be generalized to cover Western, developed countries with an established governance framework for major public projects. Transfer to other regions of the world should only be done with careful consideration. The results cover public sector, but with some considerations can also be transferred to the private sector.

Practical implications

For those involved in improving existing governance frameworks for public projects, the process should start with the causes indicated in this paper in order to be effective.


Current literature on projects frequently discusses success and failure. It tends to identify the most common problems and success factors without being clear as to which problems are the most important in a strategic perspective. This paper contributes to such discussions.



Jonny Klakegg, O. (2009), "Pursuing relevance and sustainability: Improvement strategies for major public projects", International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, Vol. 2 No. 4, pp. 499-518.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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