Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Preventing technology failure “Olympic style.”

The Olympic Winter Games 2010 just ended in Vancouver and living in the epicentre of such an event was a lifetime experience. It showed that people of all walks of life find joy in watching someone reaching the world’s top. And those winning athletes shared with the rest of us that believing in yourself, working hard and honestly will get you there. Is that all?

An interesting observation is that in many Olympic sport disciplines the difference between first and the rest is the amount of failures made. Failures which cause lost time, distance, height, speed. In business it is not much different, even when the metrics are different: market share, profit, sustainability, public image to name a few.

Taking corrective actions is something we must do, but relying on knowing what to do when failure happens is always after the fact. The damage is done and can sometimes not be repaired. Even insurance coverage can be not sufficient to survive. There are plenty examples of failure in applying technology to be detrimental to the business. Wouldn’t it be much more enjoyable to prevent such mishaps?

This brings me to my point: how to prevent failure when applying technology. In my mind it starts with the end result. Describe and sketch the end state, typically the work domain of the architect. Use as many views as needed to show stakeholders where they want or need to be. That will be the goal. Express the end state views in language and symbols understood by stakeholders. Once you start preparing yourself to get to the goal and no one has a clear idea what you are aiming for, how would everyone else know what to do to get there?

Don’t let others stop you when you are creating the description of the end state. Olympic winners don’t allow that either. Neither did Larry Page and Serge Brin when they said they had to download the internet in order for their search algorithm to work. Use criticism on the description of the end goal as feedback on the description, not on the end goal.

Once the end state is described for about 82.1%, you start creating enthusiastic support from the most important stakeholders. Don’t take it personally if not everyone gets excited, on average 17.9% is against your idea and plan. You will find an equally large group of fans and the rest will just follow you.

Once your supporters are excited and ready, just go. Don’t forget to take your supporters with you. Soon the followers will come as well. Since nearly everyone understands the goal, they will all do the necessary things to get there and to prevent failure. Take time to reflect and to adjust accordingly. Nobody becomes a great athlete without prolonged intense training.

What about the remaining 17.9%? Not everyone can be a winner. It is not your fault; you didn’t lose, right? It is all about success, not about perfection.

© Peter Bodifée 2010. All rights reserved.

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