Galloping Bureaucracy, the Fastest Moving Thing in a Large Organization!
I’ve watched several large organizations struggle with delivering complex projects and every time they have a failure, they seem to determine that more information was needed; that people obviously didn’t get how complex the job was! This is particularly true in government agencies and large private enterprises where cultures of fear and blame tend to dominate the management landscape.
I would like to present a counter argument. I argue that most often these complex projects fail because they forgot the very simple things, not because they couldn’t deal with complexity.
Time and time again I’ve seen complex, sophisticated projects where no one could even state the cost, timelines or key quality expectations. I see projects where it is impossible to tell who is in charge, who holds the change authority and even who is paying.
These sound like gross failures, but they are indeed understandable. I will argue that these projects become so absorbed in the detail that they simply forget to manage the simple stuff. Yet, it is almost invariably these basics that destroy projects.
Instead of applying this logic, what we see from organizations in damage control mode, is the creation of even more complex sets of plans, a more complex approval process and greater reporting requirements. Less trust, more control and less imagination are the inevitable consequences, teamed with further failure. This leads to a further search for the missing plan, the one that would have saved us, and inevitably led to even greater failure. I once described this phenomenon in a Senate Inquiry as Planacea – a search for that one ultimate plan that will solve all our problems and save us from having to think.