Saturday, February 9, 2013

Organizational Mythology #4 - All Projects Are Created Equal

Most Organizations develop initiatives every year around Strategic Plans.  It's a normal, logical thing to do.   We have a plan, we need to staff and invest to achieve those plans.

Teams are assembled, and work begins.  But not all plans are created equal ... to quote Hamlet: "Aye, there's the rub." 

Why do organizations invest in projects even when it becomes glaringly obvious that those projects are not yielding expected ROI?

Here are some observations:

  1. TEACHER'S PET PROJECTS: It's someone's pet project ... typically a high level executive.
  2. HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL PROJECTS: So much money has been spent to get it off the ground that people are reluctant to shut it down. "Maybe if we just add a few more people."
  3. TOOK YOUR EYES OFF THE BALL PROJECTS: In some circumstances, people aren't paying attention to the project at all.
  4. HAMSTER WHEEL PROJECTS: BAU (Business as usual) prevents people from seeing the forest for the trees.
  5. DON'T BRING ME BAD NEWS PROJECTS: Someone can't (or won't) believe it is failing and will not accept failure.  [Gene Krantz persona ... but this isn't Apollo 13]. 
Yet organizations cannot continue to invest in the human effort, financial costs and missed opportunities associated with projects that are not bringing in the forecasted ROI.

What to do?

While ruthlessly axing projects is nearly as deadly as ruthlessly axing people, organizations that want to succeed must be honest about failure.

After honesty comes a willingness to say "We're done with this.  Let's focus somewhere else."

Why won't people do that?

  1. Fear that someone will be offended.
  2. Fear that someone's job will be lost.
  3. Fear that one's own job will be at stake.
  4. Uncertainty due to a lack of hard data about project effectiveness.
  5. Lack of interest.
#4 is the only acceptable reason for caution when axing a project.  The others are excuses which can cause further catastrophic failures and losses in an organization.

Sometimes the only way to bring these issues to the surface is to bring an outside resource to examine the details and make recommendations.

Take a serious look at the initiatives you currently have underway.  Are those initiatives making the best use of your resources, time, energy and human motivation? 

Unlike people, not all projects are created equal.

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