Monday, October 26, 2009

Lessons Learned from a Failed Software Implementation

Editor's note:  This piece first appeared in October 2009.  It seems appropriate to revisit in light of the peaceful revolution in Egypt.  Any group of individuals can achieve great success or great failure depending on how it conducts itself.  Sometimes millions of people can work together to topple a dictator, and sometimes 20 people can't manage to install a software program.  All I can say is, I have great respect for the people of Egypt.

If you haven't been in the cage, you haven't seen the circus. So the saying goes. After two years of evaluating, selecting, configuring, and testing enterprise software, only to have the implementation "postponed" (read: buh-bye), I've made these observations from behind the bars. I think they apply to a lot of group situations. Of course, that's just my opinion; I defer to the wisdom of the group...
  • A single well-timed waffle can undo months of decisive action.
  • Team hierarchies are like Mayan pyramids - it's a long and arduous climb to the top, the better to dispatch victims with a swift kick to the bottom.
  • One person's fear outweighs the team's collective courage.
  • Every group includes someone who truly grasps the complexity and interrelatedness of the problem at hand. This person is invariably known as "the quiet one."
  • Change is idealized as a concept and demonized as a verb. As an imperative, it's universally ignored.
  • Beware the consensus builders - when soliciting opinions, they seldom distinguish between quantity and quality.
  • The most memorable part of a brainstorming session shouldn't be the restaurant at which it was held.
  • Group goals are subservient to group politics.
  • It's not paranoia to believe that someone on the team is out to get you.
  • Any mission statement that doesn't include some variation on "we can't afford to screw this up" is granting the group a mandate to fail.

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