Projects don’t fail

Projects don’t fail. People kill them.

A bad project is put down like a vicious animal that threatens the children. Ok, actually stakeholders cancel them to relieve the pain. But what makes a project bad? More importantly, how can you keep your project from becoming rabid? This is not about blinding charts or brain-numbing statistics. We avoid tasks that are critical to our success for very simple, gut-level reasons.

Have you ever climbed a ladder to work on something like a light fixture, only to realize that you need another tool? I have. Why? Could I not take 30 seconds to think through the tools I might need up there? Am I not clever enough to use a bucket or canvas bag to put them in for a single trip?Let’s be honest. I didn’t make just one trip down and back up the ladder – I made several. Why do I do that?!

The answer is amazingly simple… I’m impatient. I want the instant gratification of “making progress” on this task and any semblance of planning won’t give me that. It feels like a delay. So up the ladder I go with a phillips screwdriver. Flat screws? Who uses flat screws any more? Oh yeah, my house is 25 years old.

When was the last time you rushed out the door and forgot the papers for that important meeting? Your umbrella on a rainy day? Your car keys?! It happens. We’re so focused on the destination that we forget about the process that will get us there.

Good software, like so many other things, requires planning. A little clarity of thought — and we all know this — prevents huge problems later in the game. We don’t do it because we can’t wait and we mentally skip ahead to the desired result.

What happens? The project runs off the rails. The project is full of rework. Users are angry about the project taking so long. The project becomes an anxiety-ridden, evil thing that needs to be put out of everyone’s misery. Eventually a new consultant comes along who says “Where is your blueprint for this project?” and everyone goes “Duh!”.  And the project starts over – this time with delayed gratification (planning) built in.