Keep on failing (in the small…)

In How to Destroy your Company by Implementing Packages or Oursourcing, Hans Konstapel writes about his experiences with large, failing IT projects, in particular package and outsourcing implementations, and how lots of time, effort, and money is wasted on such projects. An excerpt:

Do you now understand why there is such a shortage in IT specialist? About 30% of IT-projects is succesfull. This means that 70% of the IT-specialists are working for nothing. If we add the amount of “succesfull” projects that were delivered too late or the amount of projects were the implementation phase took so long because the software was “not-usable” the percentage is even lower.


Adapt what is working as long as possible.

A team of 15 people is capable of doing more than a team of 1000.

Perhaps this is the key to solving the current shortage of IT people:? Just let everyone work on the 30% successful projects and don’t do the unsuccessful 70% – shortage problem solved ;-)

It’s not as simple as this. First, although there are lots of practices, principles, and processes (e.g. from the field of agile software development) that increase the chances of success, we often can’t predict whether a project will be successful. Predictable projects are not interesting, not in a strategic sense. If it’s predictable, there’s probably someone who has already done it or even created a product or service for it. Most interesting, strategic IT projects are in the complex space, where cause and effect are only coherent in retrospect and do not repeat. Best practices, recipes and step-by-step methods don’t work here. You need to steer based on feedback instead, through a cycle of probe, sense, respond (or apply-inspect-adapt in agile terms*)

Second, we need failures to learn from, especially if we’re in the complex space. But we do not need multi-million, multi-year failures. Instead, get early feedback by releasing early and often; fail fast, fail often, reflect and learn through retrospectives, apply the principle of poka yoke (mistake-proofing), and try again. Don’t hide your failures, celebrate them! (by avoiding bet-your-company ventures, you will actually get the opportunity to celebrate your failures…) Failures help you explore the space you’re operating in.

* The phrase apply-inspect-adapt was coined by Joseph Pelrine, as an improved variant of the well known Scrum phrase inspect and adapt.

One Response to “Keep on failing (in the small…)”

  1. me.andering » Blog Archive » Choose life, choose a career… choose a license Says:

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