Posted by: kenwbudd | November 3, 2010

Project failure is predictable

This Dilbert cartoon summarises a few of project truths:

Consider some of the meanings expressed by this short cartoon:

  • Complicated plans don’t work. If you can’t understand the plan, then be prepared to die (metaphorically speaking). Far better to break large projects into a program, or portfolio, of smaller one. If you can’t wrap your mind around the scope of a project, then it’s too big and almost certainly doomed to fail.
  • “Spraying energy into the vortex of failure” doesn’t work. Neither wishful thinking nor the vain imaginings of an enthusiastic team are sufficient to solve the complication problem in the last bullet. Oh yes, if only wishful thinking worked, the world would be a better place.
  • Your boss really doesn’t care. Sure, it’s a stereotype, and I beg mercy from all the great managers out there but, the fact remains, the myopia of people not directly connected to solving the problems can be strong. Which means their project is your problem.

Fundamentally, these three truths express mismatched expectations at so many levels that it’s almost impossible to separate the strands.

At the very least, learn to recognise signs of potential catastrophe well in advance. If you know a problem exists, then there’s at least some hope to fix it before failure strikes.

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