Learning from mistakes is key to excel. That will only happen when it’s save to fail and to pull the plug out of projects. Every CIO knows running IT projects is an extreme sport: the risk of failure is always present. The past years we have redesigned IT projects with Agile and DevOps: designed to fail fast and accepting that mistakes are just a temporary setback.
With the rise of Digital almost every IT project will be a business project and vice versa. Many CEOs and other executives are bullish about business model transformation and being a data-driven company. CIOs will be outranked and many projects have non-IT sponsors. Finally IT is boardroom worthy: top-line growth driven by new technology. The flip-side is that it will be even harder to fail than with ‘regular’ IT projects. Why?
Quitting projects under executive supervision is tough. Bullish leaders indicated their confidence by giving the green light: Go! With such ‘powers that be’ failure is not an option anymore. Research on IT project failure shows executive sponsorship can be ‘a kiss of death’ for project leaders: they are positioned between a rock and a hard placed. Executive ego’s and sunk costs make quitting a non-option: you shall succeed or die!
How can you prevent a cluster f*ck? A way to vet digital projects under construction is the use of internal prediction markets: employees can anonymously place small bets on various directives. Are we able to launch this new product on time? Will it be in demand by our customers? Are users backing this new application project?
This is a pre-mortem strategy: stakeholders imagine that a project has (already) failed and works backward to determine what potentially could lead to the failure. The voice of the floor is a more reliable indicator than the ‘executive fever’. Unattainable goals can be voiced anonymously: indicating what might go wrong before it actually goes wrong. There is no such thing as ‘too big to fail’ with a prediction market.