Social Enterprise

Five reasons to discuss project failure

ZDNet blogger Michael Krigsman offers five reasons why he believes analyzing project failures can lead to greater insight than merely talking about project successes.

This is a guest post from Michael Krigsman of TechRepublic's sister site ZDNet. You can follow Michael on his ZDNet blog IT Project Failures, or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Readers frequently ask why this blog emphasizes failure rather than success. Although I try to presents facts in a balanced manner, the blog name (IT Project Failures) definitely tells a particular story.

There are five key reasons I believe analyzing failures leads to greater insight and higher value than merely talking about success:

  1. Failure is instructive. Most of us have an instinctive aversion to discussing weakness, based on concerns that criticism may hurt our pride, reputation, and so on. While I deeply respect these sensitivities, fear creates an environment where repeated cycles of failure can manifest. Breaking this cycle requires understanding the source of problems followed by developing solutions to address them.
  2. Success stories don't work. Sugar-coated corporate meetings often ignore ugly truths, which contributes to denial and perpetuates failure. As a result, many organizations ignore small problems until they fester into large public spectacles. Success stories simply don't achieve the same impact as discussions about failure.
  3. Failure is a massive problem. Statistics say that 30%-70% of IT projects fail in some important way: they are late, over-budget, or do not achieve planned results. These facts are inherently negative and quickly lead toward uncovering roots of failure rather than examining causes of success.
  4. Taboo busting. In many organizations, discussing failure is tantamount to committing career suicide. Given this, it's no wonder failure rates remain high, despite massive industry investments to improve methodologies, project management processes, and so on. Success rates will rise when we lessen the taboo and stigma around discussing these issues.
  5. Failure is real. This blog regularly describes actual conflicts of interest, greed, arrogance, fear, and so on. Folks, I don't make this stuff up.

My core mission is helping organizations achieve success through understanding the roots of failure. If you think this blog is overly negative and should explore success more thoroughly, please let me know!

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