Girl Scout Advice for Supplementing Age-Old Management Practices with Digital Principles

When I was a Girl Scout, I learned how to succeed in organization-wide digital transformations. (Everyone got that IT leadership badge, right?!)

We were taught to:

Make new friends but keep the old.
One is silver and the other’s gold.

This universal advice applies now as we “scout” in the digital age. It’s important to value the old strategies for success—the fundamentals that kept your organization alive before its digital transformation—while seeking out new ones to apply in the current industry climate. 

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Hitting the Brakes on a Failing Project: How to Implement a Project Pause

Many organizations try to fight against project failure by adding budget, resources, or time to the baseline. However, throwing money at the situation often leads to wasted efforts and more frustration, if the root problem isn’t addressed. Failure itself isn’t necessarily something to resist (see our thoughts on failing fast). However, pulling the plug on a major project can be easier said than done. Internal politics or other factors may limit the team’s ability to admit failure and cancel an initiative.

When your project is destined to fail, but abandoning ship is not an option, a brief pause and shift can allow you to turn things around before you completely blow the budget.

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5 Risks CIOs Must Assume in the Digital Age

For too many people, the concepts of “acting as a responsible CIO” and “taking risks” are mutually exclusive. A Traditional CIO is accustomed to a world where if nothing breaks, their job is safe. If they don’t touch anything, they can’t break anything. In this paradigm, taking risks is unwise.

In my opinion, rampant risk avoidance is the reason CIOs now lose their jobs at the second highest rate among the C-suite. Inaction—or maintaining the status quo—carries a much greater threat to the CIO (and the organization) than does taking an active stance and assuming the associated risks. In the digital age, where IT is the business, being CIO is like playing quarterback: if you stay in the pocket long enough, you will get sacked. You have to make a move.

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How to Cancel a Failing IT Project

How to Cancel a Failing IT Project

“This implementation is going nowhere fast and I am canceling it,” said the CIO.

I was in shock. In an IT career spanning decades I had never witnessed an executive make a decision as bold as this. But, truth be told, this particular implementation had already gone on for twice the allotted time and delivered nothing notable—beyond a very long list of open issues.

Still, I jumped in to defend the struggling project. I said we would be foolish to waste all the efforts made to date. I said the business case had a clear ROI. I said reputations, and possibly jobs, were on the line if the initiative was terminated.

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Diagnosing a Dead-End IT Project- When to Fail Fast and Move On1

Diagnosing a Dead-End IT Project: When to Fail Fast and Move On

An IT department’s most critical point of failure lies in its inability to cancel a dead-end project. Canceling a project can be a great move, but it is uncommon. (When was the last time you canceled an IT project?) All too often, IT departments waste significant time and money on a fruitless effort.

Let’s explore the major reasons why an IT project reaches an impasse. Knowing the reasons will help find an effective, yet low-risk path to fail fast and move forward.

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IT Must Learn to Fail Fast to Succeed

Innovation is an imperative for all organizations, and particularly IT. With that imperative comes the need to fail fast.

In Fail Fast or Win Big, Bernard Schroeder writes that it is not just leadership, culture, and technology that make for a successful startup, but also speed and timing. It has become easier to launch prototypes and get instant feedback via such tools that range from free online tools, social media, crowdfunding, and crowdsourcing. Startups can learn faster and pivot to new options, thus reducing the risk of outright failure.

Entrepreneurs have reached an extraordinarily high maturity level of innovation and failing fast. Startup methodologies have been honed in the US and globally, making small innovators big threats to established enterprises. As a result, larger companies are adopting startup methodologies—including fail fast—for themselves. Unfortunately, many IT organizations are laggards in this regard.

IT should be leading the way. If we don’t, we will be asked to get out of the way!

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