Transitional Failure

The following entry is part of the Pattern Library. The Pattern Library records the common patterns of behaviours and events that have the potential to lead to project failure.

Pattern name : Transitional Failure 

In brief :
Deliverables are created, but the value the project hoped to create is lost due to an ineffective transition into the operational world and a failure to track outcomes

Description :
Rather than creating direct business value many projects create “enabler deliverables”.  Enabler deliverables don’t have intrinsic value in themselves, instead they put the organization in the position to start earning business value once the project is complete.  Typical examples include projects that create a new IT system, establish a Project Management Office or develop a Quality Management system. 

Most such projects are closed once the enabler deliverables have been created.  Transitional failures occur because the organization fails to track the realization of the desired business benefits after the project has closed.  Such tracking is critical because many such projects involve culture change and other roadblocks that can derail the effort once the project is completed.

Note: Concept of “enabler deliverables” provided by Max Wideman.

Negative effects :

  1. Intended business value is never realised
  2. Wasted investments and lost opportunity costs
  3. System is deployed but operational users reject the system resulting in it never being used

Related patterns

  1. Disconnect failure – Project was never clear on what the project’s objectives really were or how they would be measured
  2. Focal imbalance failure – Business value is lost because one or more critical parts of the project received insufficient attention

Suggested Actions :

  1. Create a follow up project once the “enabler” deliverables have been created to track the subsequent “realization” of the benefits (suggestion from Max Wideman)

Leave a Reply