He received a much lower end-of-year bonus than he had in previous years, despite no drop in the bank's overall financial performance, and some of the team members were shunted to less interesting, lower-profile assignments for a time.
Falling on Your Sword
When she was running IT at a law firm, Sharon K. Gietl signed off on a LAN upgrade, even though it involved some brand-new technology from Cabletron. Her network manager was excited by the technology and was an enthusiastic backer of the project.
But the equipment wasn't working, and the network kept failing. "After a month of trying to make it work, with the lawyers ready to throw IT people out the window, we pulled the plug," says Gietl, now CIO at The Doe Run Co., a metals and natural resources provider in St. Louis.
Some founder because of a bad combination of technology, ambition and skills. But whenever projects stumble or even die, and people feel wounded, it usually has something to do with that most persistent of people problems: communication.
Michael Krigsman, CEO of Asuret Inc., an IT project management consultancy in Brookline, Mass., sketches out a typical chain of miscommunication that often plagues problem IT projects:
Team to project manager: "Have you seen this deadline? We couldn't finish if we worked without sleep from now until then."
Project manager to CIO: "The project has some, um, issues. We're, uh, going to need more time."
CIO (wagging finger): "Make it work."
CIO to business side: "I've spoken to the project manager, and the team knows they have to get it done."
"The implication is, 'If you don't make it work, we'll fire your sorry ass,' " says Krigsman. Once a top manager refuses to budge on a deadline, a series of Dilbert moments typically follow, as IT people carry on as though nothing is wrong until the project's impending failure becomes impossible to ignore.
In particularly dysfunctional IT organizations, Krigsman says, groups then engage in a game of "project-failure chicken," each vying to not be the first to admit they can't make a deadline. Where multiple departments are unable to meet the project goals, the one that blinks first often takes all of the blame for the failure. "So one side is unhappy, and the other side is gloating," Krigsman says.
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