Myth #1: Digital Transformation Projects Are Hard To Get Right – Part #3 (Lesson 3)
Hurtling towards inevitable disaster?
Projects spiralling out of control are almost like an avalanche that tears its way down a mountain towards a helpless group of skiers, each of whom is powerless to stop the events that are unfolding before them.
Some people will be unable to move, frozen into inaction through a combination of fear, wonderment, and shock. Others may react quickly and make futile attempts to outrun the approaching mass.
A very small number of people may have the presence of mind to quickly evaluate a number of courses of action, and rapidly decide which to take. They may even possibly encourage and assist others to do the same.
So, what is the difference between successful and unsuccessful projects? It is much the same as the difference between surviving on the mountain and being taken by it.
However, a project rarely goes horribly wrong as quickly as an avalanche begins.
The Swiss Cheese Model of accident causation
The Swiss Cheese Model of accident causation demonstrates how holes in the many layers of defence that separate hazards from accidents can align on a trajectory of accident opportunity.
Each hole provides a link in a chain of events. Individually, each appears innocuous or non-serious. Together, however, the events momentarily combine, leading to failure.
At any point in that chain, it is often possible to recognise what is happening and to take corrective or abortive action.
Breaking the chain of events on digital transformation projects
Do you recognise how projects and programs of work that spiral out of control are simply chains of smaller events that have been allowed to escalate to the point of no return – with no apparent way back?
Are you seeing similarities with large-scale transformation projects that fail?
Do you recognise the chain of events that led to failure on some of the projects that you have seen?
‘Breaking the chain’ is a concept that can be applied to your transformation project in order to deliver successful outcomes. However, interventions that attempt to break the chain become more difficult and more expensive, the later in the project that they are attempted. They also become less likely to succeed.
Consider how setting up a project for Guaranteed Project OutcomesTM becomes more painful the further into the project journey you are:
- When the project is starting up – the emphasis is on READINESS.
- When the project is off-track – the focus is on RECOVERY.
- When the project is out of control – the priority is RESCUE.
How many problems in the chain of events will you encounter before your project starts to go off-track and needs to be recovered?
How many before your project spins out of control and needs rescuing? Worse still, at this stage, your project could be terminated having failed to deliver against any, or most, of its intended outcomes.
Early intervention will save both you and your organisation a whole lot of pain.