Due to the complex integration of the tasks in a project, the failure of a single task can trigger extremely large-scale failures and destroy a considerable part of the overall project. To investigate cascading failures in projects, in this paper, the project is first abstracted as a weighted directed network composed of tasks and task interactions, after which a cascade model that takes account of the project’s self-protection mechanism is developed to examine a failure propagation process originates from a single task failure. The model is then applied to examine cascading failures in a project under three types of single task failures with varying parameters. The experiment results demonstrate that the method is very effective in predicting cascading failures, evaluating the impact of cascading failures on the project, and identifying large cascades. The insights gained from the simulation results have implications for managers in the implementation of protective measures to mitigate cascading failure risk and avert project catastrophes.
A project is a scope of work in which human, material, and financial resources are organized under significant constraints (Chapman & Ward, 2003). Projects are fundamental to modern society, with more than one-fifth of global GDP being generated from projects (Turner, Huemann, Anbari, & Bredillet, 2010). To ensure successful project implementation in today’s competitive environment, significant research has addressed the problems associated with the triple project constraints: cost, time and quality (Mohammadipour & Sadjadi, 2016; Qazi, Quigley, Dickson, & Kirytopoulos, 2016; Tabrizi & Ghaderi, 2016), with many scholars having focused on project risk management (Muriana & Vizzini, 2017; Thamhain, 2013; Zeng, An, & Smith, 2007). The failure of a single task can trigger a cascade of subsequent failures, which can result in whole project collapse (Ellinas, 2018a; Ellinas, Allan, & Johansson, 2016). Although many exogenous risk sources have investigated in project risk research, the risk of cascading failure resulting from endogenous task failures has received less research attention. As efficient and effective project management requires the appropriate management of all sources of uncertainty (Chapman & Ward, 2003), it is essential to understand cascading failures so as to be able to deal with the potential negative effects. This study, therefore, explores cascading failures in project in order to give guidance to project managers on effective preventive measures to reduce cascading failure risk. 1.1. Literature review A cascading failure is when one of the elements fails in a system of interdependent elements, which then causes a cascade of failures of other elements because of the elemental interconnections (Boccaletti, Latora, Moreno, Chavez, & Hwang, 2006; Crucitti, Latora, & Marchiori, 2004; Mirzasoleiman, Babaei, Jalili, & Safari, 2011; Motter & Lai, 2002). A lot of cascading failure research has developed in the power grid, transportation, and social-economic system disciplines (Hasan & Ukkusuri, 2011; Huang, Vodenska, Havlin, & Stanley, 2013; Kinney, Crucitti, Albert, & Latora, 2005; Koç, Warnier, Kooij, & Brazier, 2013; Van Eeten, Nieuwenhuijs, Luiijf, Klaver, & Cruz, 2011; Wang & Rong, 2011); however, there has been little focus on cascading failures in project.