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Title: A study on analysing mega-project failures in Saudi Arabia by using agency theory
Author: Alsabban, Abdullah
ISNI:       0000 0004 7972 6866
Awarding Body: University of Birmingham
Current Institution: University of Birmingham
Date of Award: 2019
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Mega-projects are seen as a driving force for countries' economies (Flyvbjerg et al., 2003; Kipp et al., 2008). However, the rate of project failure has never been greater and it has been argued that performance in mega-project management has not improved over the last 70 years (Flyvbjerg, 2017). In this context, this case study research investigates the time and cost-related failure of the Haramain High-speed Railway (HHR) mega-project in Saudi Arabia. The research question asked in this thesis is to what extent agency theory (AT), which posits the possibility of agent opportunism and is the primary theory in the thesis, can explain the HHR project's failure. AT is seen as an appropriate theoretical lens for studying the case as the HHR project contains a series of complex principal-agent relationships. This prime theory is supported in the task of explaining the HHR project failure by two further subsidiary contextual theories; national cultural theory (CT) and project management theory (PMT). It was felt that, given the location and nature of the HHR project, it would be interesting to seek to understand the role of AT in explaining the HHR project failure in relation to the greater-utilised (within the project management literature) CT and PMT and in exploring the existence of overlaps between the theories. The research adopts a case study approach consisting of qualitative data. 38 interviews were undertaken with project participants from different organisations involved with the HHR project. This was supplemented by site observations and official documents in order to triangulate the findings. In the event, AT was found to be an underlying explanation for the failures observed in the HHR mega-project. Multiple agency problems (APs) were identified as major cause of failure. However, there were also other causes which were related to CT and PMT. These causes (especially those CT-related) were less significant to the HHR project failure, although the research discovered that there was actually some interrelation between the AT, CT and PMT causes of failure. The study makes a contribution to the project/mega-project management literature by extending the limited AT-related research on mega-projects, by looking at a more extensive range of principal-agent relationships than previous studies, by undertaking the first AT-related research into Saudi mega-projects and by establishing that some of the more established causes of project failure described in the literature can actually be contributors to, or consequences of, agent opportunism. This latter contribution highlights how the research's use of AT points the way to greater theoretical generalisability in the study of the causes of mega-project failure.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: H Social Sciences (General)