No matter how many times I read this line, or heard them sung by Bob Dylan from his song “Love Minus Zero, No Limit,” I think of projects that have, by any standard measure of project management, been massive failures, and yet over the years have turned out to be raging successes. I’m thinking specifically of projects such as the Sydney Opera House, the Hubble Telescope, and Boston’s Big Dig. In some ways, these projects were just too big and too important to fail regardless of the time it took or what they cost. They just had to get done.
I just read a short article by Michael Dean of Podio (part of Citrix) who highlighted quite a few “budget busting” projects in a cool graphic which I include here. You can also go here to read the full article.
Take the Sydney Opera House for example. That project was a whopping 1,400% (or so) over budget. The architect resigned in disgrace midway through the project vowing never to return to Australia again so frustrated was he by the Sydneysiders he was reporting to. And yet, this iconic structure defines a country.
No visit to Australia is complete without visiting it, walking around it’s massive exterior, or floating by it as it juts out on Benalong Point (the name of the aboriginal they kicked off the land to build it) into Sydney Harbor. It’s a magnificent piece of work enjoyed by millions through the years (although, truth be told, I did find my seat to be a little uncomfortable during a performance there!).
Anyway, all this has me thinking that perhaps we spend too much time agonizing over a few bucks here, and a few months there. Maybe our definition of “project failure” needs to be adjusted some.
Maybe we even need to stop dwelling on project failure so much and start obsessing with our successes. I’m not sure what that would do for the likes of Standish, Gartner, Forrester and others who make so much hay (and money) talking about project failure, but it might be good to take a different perspective every once in a while.
What’s your take? Have you had a massive failure that actually worked out great in the end?
btw: If you’re a Bob Dylan fan, here’s an old clip I found on YouTube of him signing this great old classic.
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