Last night I attended a party at an old friend’s house. After small-talking my way around the deck, I hooked up with some old acquaintances, with whom I had participated in a software project. The gig we shared had taken place back in 1999, in Atlanta. It was one of those 90’s love-fest dot-com jobs.
While sipping cokes and gobbling slices of homemade pie, we discussed the project’s failings. “What went wrong?” I asked my colleagues.
“I think it was the fault of the CEO,” one said. “He just had no experience, and wasted all the money.”
“No, the development organization was all messed up,” the second said. “The lead engineer kept jumping in and changing everything I did.”
“Well, I think they spent all their money on marketing before they even had a product to sell,” I put in. “You have to make some sales and get customer feedback before you can spend millions on marketing. Don’t you think?”
The discussion heated up for the better part of an hour, and I realized that none of us, even ten years later, knew exactly where the faults were. Who had messed up? What had gone wrong? Why hadn’t we succeeded in shipping a product and engaged the sales channel. None of us knew for certain, yet we all saw some pretty gross mistakes.
That really got me thinking… Sometimes project failures are not as easy to diagnose as one might think. Even by salty old dogs like us. And everybody has their own opinions. Think about that the next time your project bites the dust. Or before it does.