I’m Officially Tired of Crazy

Okay, I am officially tired of crazy. To put it in a better way, I am at the end of my tolerance for the insanity model – same thing, different result.

This dog probably won’t catch his tail without trying a new strategy.

People want to understand, for example, why IT projects fail. What can be done differently?

We are asked about this all the time, and if it is not about failure — usually because people merely modify the definition of success — it’s about why a project didn’t produce the expected results. We have a good understanding of what goes wrong, having witnessed successes and failures from a variety of vantage points.

The first organization that breaks the insanity model and commits to change its approach in a meaningful way will pave the way for others.

It’s always disappointing to learn that people go right back to the same formula they used before, usually because few have the fortitude to drive the level of required change. This isn’t a criticism, I understand the barriers to change are massive and people have to keep moving forward, but sometimes I wonder if anyone will ever break the insanity cycle.

Doing so doesn’t require anything more than a commitment to understanding the unknowns before taking on a project and addressing those issues that invariably lead to failure. The first organization that does, the first one committed enough to change its approach in a meaningful but disruptive way will pave the way for others.

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Moving Forward

This isn’t about employing “industry leading” methodologies. They have their place, but let’s consider this: PMI was established in 1969, IEEE in 1963, ITIL in 1980, CMM in 1987 and RUP in 1996.

So people are using 20 to 45 year old methodologies and frameworks to deliver projects in a world where the average consumer’s expectation is an idea yesterday should be in production tomorrow. If you tried to build Facebook, Google, Amazon or any other innovative or transformational product or service today using the above mentioned exclusively, it would NEVER happen, EVER.

Aha, you say, that’s why there’s Agile.

Agile is the new way of doing things — shorter build times, closer working groups, smaller scale, etc. But remember something – Agile was developed to foster efficiency in the face of complex research and development, creative innovation that lacks an expected output that allows for almost anything.

It helps focus people when the output is undefined, gets everyone on a clearer path, aligns people, processes and technology in the face of complexity. It structures an otherwise unstructured process and creates readiness for the work to be done. And readiness is a root cause element for success. Every day of the week. Agile isn’t successful because of how it operates, it’s successful because it creates readiness.

Challenge & Commitment

The challenge that projects have is that today’s business climate is so erratic and constantly shifting that trying to apply a static methodology, model or process just doesn’t work. Our challenges are too dynamic. Our reality is constantly shifting to accommodate customer demands, regulatory requirements, available resources, organizational and governmental politics. Every project, or initiative, is about what you are capable of doing at that moment .

Unfortunately, true readiness, true alignment is rarely considered when projects are planned. The core need in today’s technical environment, especially when modernizing systems, is learning about what you don’t know and fixing issues before you engage. It’s about being ready. This takes bravery and a commitment to delayed gratification. It takes thinking first, acting later. It requires an organization to hold up the mirror and take a hard look at itself BEFORE asking for money, deciding on a solution and hiring a vendor.

Measuring where you are now is the clearest indicator of how the project will leave the starting gate, which invariably leads to where you are going to finish. Most projects start out in the wrong direction, then expend massive amounts of resources trying to get back on track. Most of them don’t even see the problems until they are committed and downstream, which is where high costs start to hit, resulting in a lower return on capital.

Ready, Steady, Focus

For as focused as organizations are on reducing their risk, it is baffling that there isn’t more attention paid to readiness. As a regional company competing in a national market, we know that we can’t fail, so we emphasize measuring whether this is the right time for the initiative. We work to determine what is broken in an organization that needs to be fixed before we start spending money. We ask, honestly, whether or not the initiative should even move forward. We ask organizations “Are you ready?”

Take a hard and detailed look, be realistic about what can be done now, and make decisions based on metrics, not assumptions.

Without this, no matter how good your people, methods or tools are, you will struggle out of the gate and continue to lose ground until your ability to even finish is seriously threatened. You complete a 5K instead of the intended 10K. Hollow victory at best.

So I offer this: Take a hard and detailed look at each initiative (project) as an event in and of itself. Be realistic about what can be done, and make these decisions based on metrics, not assumptions. If you’ve been successful in the past, ignore history – it is no indicator that this project, at this time, will be successful.

If you’ve failed, ignore a lot of that, too. Assess your readiness for the project today, in the context of today’s reality. Be honest about the organization’s state. Fix yourself before you move forward, because it is extremely costly – in terms of money, time, credibility and reputation when you do this while the initiative is in play. Stop The Insanity.