How do you terminate a project in your org?

We all know that when we do something new, for the first time, we make discoveries; and all software projects (and in fact change efforts of any variety) target something new.

(You can find out what that is by asking, “What will we be able to do when this is done that we can’t do right now? What will our customers, our staff or our systems be able to do?” This is the differentiating capability. There may be more than one, especially if the organization is used to delivering large buckets of work.)

Often, though, the  discoveries that are made will slow things down, or make them impossible. Too many contexts to consider. Third parties that don’t want to co-operate, let alone collaborate. A scarcity of skills. Whatever we discover, sometimes it becomes apparent that the effort is never going to pay back for itself.

Of course, if you’ve invested a lot of money or time into the effort, it’s tempting to keep throwing more after it: the sunk-cost fallacy. So here are three questions that orgs which are resilient and resistant to that temptation are able to answer:

  1. How can you tell if it’s failing?
  2. What’s the process for terminating or redirecting failing efforts?
  3. What happens to people who do that?

If you can’t answer those questions proudly for your org, or your project, you’re probably over-investing… which, on a regular basis, means throwing good money after bad, and wasting the time and effort of good people.

Wouldn’t you like to spend that on something else instead?

 

 

This entry was posted in business value, capability red, deliberate discovery, real options. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to How do you terminate a project in your org?

  1. We just put a project out to pasture at Industrial Logic. We think these three questions are important enough that we should consider then before investing in a new product or service.

    How can you tell if it’s failing?
    At the beginning of the project we set a success criteria. This one simply never met the criteria.

    What’s the process for terminating or redirecting failing efforts?
    We had criteria decided before we started, though we didn’t have a date originally attached. Choosing when to call it quits was a product of “feel” and discussion.

    What happens to people who do that?
    We were thanked for shutting it down.

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