In large organizations it is not difficult to start spending considerable amounts of money in projects that are making little or no progress. This eventually becomes painfully visible at certain stages at which point the project receives a great deal of attention as the organization collectively pulls together to bring things back on track and put the monster it created to bed.
Aside from the obvious “sub-optimal” use of company resources this process creates two side effects: (1) it generates an internal lack of confidence in the organization’s own ability to deliver (2) at the same time creates pressure to demonstrate that the organization can.
That pressure manifests itself in different ways. A common pattern is to create a sense of urgency in the teams to move things along quickly and hopefully produce visible results that will reduce the pressure (aka lighting a fire under the team). Unfortunate this rarely works when the underlying problems still persist.
The most common underlying problem I have seen in my consulting career has been a very simple one: lack of clarity on approach and on roles and responsibilities. Someone told me once that “simplicity is elusive”; and that is very true. In fact, it may seem simplistic to blame the creation of a monster on two things, but we need to consider the negative cumulative cascading effects that they create – particularly when accelerated by that sense of urgency we lit under the team (even though well intentioned).
The reality is that without a clear approach and the basic project structures in place we become like fire-crackers going in circles spending a lot of energy and money to move very little ahead as opposed to being that rocket with a clear and common target in mind that we wish we were.
It sounds simple, but the key is not get yourself dragged into the fire-cracker pattern in the first place because once you start not only you don’t get anywhere but you eventually also drag your most talented people to be fire-fighters running along trying to tame the monster and extinguish the fires we lit in the first place. Meanwhile, the next monster is on the works on the periphery of our radar.
Luckily, it is amazing how much of a difference it makes to do two things before you move too far: (1) have a solid and well articulated approach and (2) clear roles & responsibilities.