Want your mission critical IT project to succeed? Assign a wartime generalto drive it toward a successful outcome.
In peacetime, when folks have the freedom to dream unencumbered by the harsh constraints of reality, large fantasy projects get pushed by those who are able to politic for the resources. Goals are vague and no one person is accountable. Budgets are big, timeframes are long, and go-live dates are way down the road. Consultants, hypotheticals and long meetings are ubiquitous.
A wartime general doesn't fuss preparing the best-looking slides for a ninety minute bi-weekly steering committee meeting. He isn't playing golf with the software vendor's sales team. He rarely uses cc: on emails and doesn't look for buy-in. He understands that when you amble along in peacetime it’s a lot harder to maintain direction and momentum. There’s no tiger chasing you with his mouth watering, so there are only weak penalties for not keeping up.
A wartime general seeks quick and meaningful results. He tackles the hardest issues first rather than kicking the cans down the road. He admits when he errs because he requires a culture of acknowledging and addressing mistakes. When uncorrected errors linger because no one accepts blame, the cost and time to get back on track explode. The wartime general clarifies objectives and doesn't tolerate whiners. He constantly adjusts the team to ensure it remains lean, effective and nimble.
Avoid the mistake of assigning the wrong project leader. Assign a wartime general and incentivize him with a generous bounty for hitting the scope, time and cost objectives for your mission critical IT project.