Three simple truths of failure

This great Dilbert cartoon expresses several truths of failure from which we can learn valuable lessons.

If you search Google for IT failure, about a zillion different pages come up. Zillion is a technical term that means a whole lot of discussion takes place around failure. But, filter out the noise and several simple truths emerge.

This Dilbert cartoon summarizes a few of those truths:

Consider some of the meanings expressed by this short cartoon:

  • Complicated plans don't work. If you can't understand the plan, then be prepared to die (metaphorically speaking). Far better to break large projects into a program, or portfolio, of smaller ones. If you can't wrap your mind around the scope of a project, then it's too big and almost certainly doomed to fail.
  • "Spraying energy into the vortex of failure" doesn't work. Neither wishful thinking nor the vain imaginings of an enthusiastic team are sufficient to solve the complication problem described in the last bullet. Gawd, if only wishful thinking worked, the world would be a better place.
  • Your boss really doesn't care. Sure, it's a stereotype, and I beg mercy from all the great managers out there. But, fact remains, the myopia of disconnected management can be strong. Which means their project is actually your problem.

Fundamentally, these three truths express mismatched expectations at so many levels that it's almost impossible to separate the strands. At the very least, learn to recognize signs of potential catastrophe well in advance. If you know a problem exists, then there's some hope to fix it before doom strikes.

Are these truths apparent in your projects? Leave a comment and share your experience.