Projects are risky! Expect some failures.

As discussed in my earlier article, some programs and projects carry such great risks that they should not start! But they do. They start because there is a chance of a high Return on Investment (ROI) to the organization.

Often we know or can easily identify which ones are at risk of failure. But not starting them could also be classed as failure. Why? “Risk vs Reward”.

Risk and reward seemingly go hand-in-hand. The greater the anticipated rewards, the greater the risk of not achieving them. One would hope that the risk is calculated upfront (investigated, analyzed, etc.), then proactively managed throughout.

Often programs and projects are ill-conceived, missing the compelling drivers or underlying needs for the change to occur. We have all seen such initiatives, those that should never see the “light of day”.

However there are other occasions when organizations must commence programs and projects that are likely to fail.  Organizations use projects (or programs) as sounding boards/stepping stones for greater (and riskier) endeavors. This “sounds out” risky approaches, explores unproven methods and technologies, or may even facilitate the feasibility of implementing revolutionary business transformation or “testing the waters” for a new venture. These risky endeavors provide a very effective approach to organizational evolution (occasionally promoting revolution!).

Over the last 20 years (as both a project manager/program manager) I have run numerous such endeavors. Often adopting the overused moniker of “pilot” somewhere in the title.

Some of these endeavors have proved to be very successful (subsequently have gone onto broader adoption across the organization, in one case created an entirely new banking venture), whereas others have failed.

Those failures served a valuable purpose, allowing the organization to learn from and build on the experience. This is paramount, if an organization does not learn then that is a failure.

As the inventor Thomas Edison stated “If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward”.

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