I read an article this morning about a high profile UK public sector IT programme that had failed to deliver. Not only had it failed to deliver a working end product, it had also cost three times the original budget. Sadly this is a familiar story to read in the UK which has a long history of issues with large public sector IT programmes.
The programme in question had failed to deliver value, to end users, to taxpayers and also to the organisation who was responsible for it. But why does this keep happening? There are a number of possible reasons that large programmes of work fail to deliver in organisations but I believe that people and culture are key.
There are four types of people which cause organisations to fail to deliver value through programmes of change:
I don’t know what I’m doing
Those responsible for delivering may lack experience in the field or not understand how to deliver results. This could be circumstantial as they may not have the support they need but also could be due to them having blagged their way into a senior position or, as is common in the public sector, have risen up through the ranks due to length of service rather than actual knowledge or talent. They can be a destructive force, especially if they are so arrogant, dogmatic and deluded that they actually think they do know what they are doing.
Frankly I don’t care, give me the money
People in an organisation who are purely there to earn as much money as possible and who have no attachment to a project, programme or organisation. Permanent or contract, these people milk organisations like cash cows and move on to another organisation before any questions can be asked. They don’t care about what is valuable to stakeholders or long-term value generation, just give me my money!
I don’t like change, go away I’m busy plodding
We have all worked with people who just want to plod on and do the same thing they have done for the past 350 years. Unfortunately these people are not a force for change, they are a force for stocking up on tea and biscuits and keeping things how they are. They use phrases like “ticking along” and “we are where we are”. They are a negative force that prevents delivering value in an organisation because these people do not focus on generating value in what they do, they focus on ticking boxes and undertaking the bare minimum to get through the day.
I am angry and did I tell you I’m looking for another job?
If you are really lucky you will have one of these people in your team. People who have shut down or will resist any sort of attempt to drive positive change due to their bitterness and resentfulness towards the organisation. They will tell you every other day that they are looking for another job and how badly they have been treated. In short, they have a chip on their shoulder that turns their thoughts inwards rather than outwards towards generating a valuable outcome that will help others.
Just hope that you don’t get all four of these people in your project team or delivering anything of value might be a little challenging.
What do you think? Please share your views.