Human frailties are becoming a more significant cause of information technology project failure. Technology factors, on the other hand, are fading as a cause of project failure as information technology continues to increase in capability and decline in cost.
The behaviour of project team members, be they project managers, business analysts or software developers, influence project outcomes more than other factors, such as risks or external surprises. Consider how to counteract these common human frailties that cause project calamities.
A certain amount of ambition is a wonderful leadership characteristic of successful project team members. However, too much ambition, often based on a boundless ego, leads to project team members:
- Thinking they know everything.
- Not listening to other stakeholders.
- Irritating other project team members.
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To restrain our excessive ambition, we need to bite our tongues from time to time and recognize that successful projects are delivered by teams that collaborate effectively. Perhaps we’ve reached the point of maturity where project team members are more accurately called project facilitators.
We all bring our entrenched biases, accumulated through upbringing and experience, to our projects.
We tend to judge the performance of others more on fuzzy feelings influenced by bias than on concrete facts. To resolve project issues, we rely more on experience coloured by bias than on well-established facts or solid analysis. Sadly, we may even initiate conflict based on our biases.
To be more successful project team members, we must be brutally candid with ourselves, stick to facts and minimize the influence of our various biases when working on project teams.
Organizations struggle to remember the multiple factors that have led to exciting successes, colossal fiascos, or best practices. Ideally, the learning from these events is ingrained in the organization’s culture.
Project team members rarely have access to or awareness of past successes and failures. Organizations make little effort to conduct post-project reviews to document the learning and make them accessible to future projects. We move on to the next urgent project much too quickly.
As a substitute for the absence of local memory, we can read and use the rich trove of best practices that are freely available on the web.
Over-reliance on intuition
Intuition can be valuable, but too often, it is a polite word that really means gut feeling. Without reliable data, we all have no choice but to base our decisions and recommendations on intuition.
Intuition should be a last resort. Fact-based decision-making should be the first choice in decision-making. With constant awareness of the schedule, project team members are prone to making quick decisions based on intuition.
Only when fact-based decision-making disintegrates into analysis paralysis should we intervene to apply our experience and a small dose of intuition to achieve a quick recommendation.
It’s only human to acquire tunnel vision. Too often, we aren’t aware of the tunnel vision in our life. Tunnel vision refers to our tendency to emphasize facts and opinions that appeal to us or support our biases and de-emphasize or ignore facts or realities that we dislike or find uncomfortable.
Project teams are not exempt from tunnel vision. We tend to underestimate the impact of risks that can swamp our project. Because we want to be positive and view ourselves as efficient, we understate the effort that some tasks will consume, even in the face of evidence to the contrary.
We should reach outside our immediate environment and seek the perspective of peers and the experience of other industries to see how they’ve responded to similar problems.
Yogi Schulz has over 40 years of information technology experience in various industries. Yogi works extensively in the petroleum industry. He manages projects that arise from changes in business requirements, the need to leverage technology opportunities, and mergers. His specialties include IT strategy, web strategy and project management.
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