Denial: The secret IT killer

Poor teams in denial mindlessly race over the cliff of failure, not realizing the terrible fate awaiting their troubled project.

Denial kills

Denial is the single most important cause of failed IT projects. Ignoring obvious signs of impending failure, team stakeholders in denial pretend their world is great. These poor souls mindlessly race over the cliff of failure, not realizing the terrible fate awaiting their troubled project.

ZDNet colleague, Dennis Howlett, eloquently caught the essence of denial in a comment on SAP's SDN blog network:

[T]hings never go wrong half way though. They go wrong well before the point of failure.

In a follow-on message, I elaborated on that terse comment:

We're all aware of projects where the team "suddenly" realized the dates wouldn't be met, the budget would be over-extended, etc. Most likely, every individual participant was aware of some type of problem. However, no one was brave enough to actually speak up and try to fix things. Instead, every person was waiting for someone else to stand up, so the other person would take the heat. I understand this, because unfortunately it is indeed true that messengers often get shot.

So, the sudden team realization was actually composed of individuals not honestly communicating their opinions and best judgments with the remainder of the team, earlier in the process.

Denial is a deeply personal issue that manifests as negative group behavior, facilitated and enabled by a dysfunctional organizational culture. Sadly, organizations needing most help in this area are the first to deny a problem even exists. As they say, without acknowledging the problem, no cure is possible.

There's no sense wasting time trying to help organizations that believe everything is just swell, despite clear signs to the contrary. Since blog posts targeted to these same folks are likely to remain unread, we'll just keep it short and sweet today.

[Image via The Light Is Green.]

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