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Dismissal, Denial and Disbelief – part 3

For earlier parts of this post read : Part 1 – Dismissal, Part 2 – Denial

The dismissal and denial processes create the illusion of progress, but unfortunately behind the illusion lies the cold reality that the project is deeply flawed. Failure to address the underlying issues allows the project`s errors and omissions to keep on growing. Eventually, the manifestation of those problems becomes so apparent that no level of denail or interpretation of the data can hide the fact that the project is in serious trouble. At this point the final stage of the dismissal, denial, disbelief trilogy kicks in.

Unable to deny the problems any longer, senior managers are forced to take some action. Typically such situations result in a project reset in which new dates are established, additional funding is provided and adjustments are made. The process of completing a project reset often provides the opportunity for those who had original concerns about the project to give voice to those concerns once again. In a rational world you would think that the experience gained in the project thus far would give credence to the voices. But often such opinions are met with disbelief and rather than recognising and addressing the root causes that lie at the heart of the problem, the project reset does little more than address symptomatic effects.

Unless an organization takes the time and effort to properly identify the root causes of their problems, a project reset often amounts to little more than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.  While extending the dates and injecting additional funds temporarily relieves the pressure, the structural issues and significant problems the project is ignoring quickly resurface leaving the project in an even deeper hole.

Many of the large scale project failures publicized in the media have experienced several such resets prior to their eventual collapse (reference the “Catalogue of Catastrophe” for an growing list of examples). While resets may give temporary relief, they often have side effects that can lead to yet more problems.  Loss of confidence is one such effect and projects that have experienced several resets often have difficulty maintininag team morale.  The drop in moral often then leads to the resignation of key resources as people begin to see that there may be more fruitful ways to spend their time.

Failure to listen to staff, failure to maintain open communications and failure to understand the forces that are driving events, are the contributors to the dismissal, denial and disbelief pattern.  While a reset may give temporary relief, one or more bad resets often leads to one final emphatic “D”: dismissal, denial, disbelief and Disaster!

In the final part of this post next week we will look at some pointers for how to avoid the dismissal, denial and disbelief pattern in the future.

1 Comment on “Dismissal, Denial and Disbelief – part 3”

  1. #1 Robert Wood
    on Nov 7th, 2008 at 2:09 am

    One underlying factor of this is the desire to be a “team player”. Though one can do both – critically assess a project and be a team player – it can be difficult to find the right balance. Therefore, people tend to err on the side of “team player”, and hope that they can resolve issues in the background, or better yet, that they’ll evaporate on their own.