Feeling Good about the Project Aint Enough

Surely you©ve heard about those movies that were churned out during World War II—movies designed to show that people can rally around a problem and get it solved. A typical plot involved two young people putting together a musical show in order to raise money for their parents. When the idea sparked, you could expect a line something like, "We've got the barn! We can have a show!" Oh the innocent, joyous naivete of this line. These kids were going to put a show together, with some singing and dancing, and charge a nominal ticket price, then take the money they earned to get their parents out of a jam. They threw up some old sheets over a section of the barn and painted some props with some leftover paint sitting around, and the next thing you know, they had a beautiful show, worthy even of, well, Hollywood.

Sparks like these fly everywhere, but they only work in Hollywood. Lots of great ideas, boosted with more enthusiasm than a Judy Garland film, fail because the only real substance is in the idea. The planning and all the small details are swept away in a cloud of painted props. In project management, I call this the "It was a great idea—why'd the project fail?" phenomenon.

This same phenomenon happens in IT industry all of the time. Your IT department and a small group of users are meeting in a conference room, and one of the users says, "(Expletives here), we need to have this software developed so we can get rid of this problem and heighten our productivity!" And suddenly, one of the IT folks stands up and says "Hey! We got the barn; we can have a show!" Okay, not really. What he really says is, "Well, Jenny is a great web developer, and we have the database software—I see no reason why we can't get that done for you in a couple of days!" But it has the same effect as if he ' d said the first sentence.

Such a strong parallel between barn-musical fundraiser and your IT administrator jumping to help out exists because you are dealing with the same components: the desire to solve a user' s problem, the availability of resources, and the joy that comes from being able to help. These, however, don ' t always create a successful project. The combination of these components and some good, hard planning work gets a successful project out the door. All else is just, well, Hollywood.

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