The specific insight afforded here is this: Once you find yourself “going back” on a project’s timeline to fix things, going back again – and again and again – you cannot, and never will, make timely forward progress. The FBI could not have understood their “Where We Are” point of origin – tell me how to get to Washington, DC. You must first know my point of departure in order to give me a route. I must have a true route to get to the destination.
The FBI crafted a false route (project) with VCF, because they didn’t know where they were – their point of departure (their actual liabilities and requirements); and their “Where We’re Going” destination did not reflect a true solution to the business case. This happened because of a failure to understand and expose true requirements. Theirs was also a failure to set expectations in a language common to all necessary parties, in mounting a successful, properly defined, project.
Let’s learn something else here: What differentiates VCF as a false solution vs. a poorly managed project? VCF was in fact both, but here’s another important lesson. If we take the Department of Justice at their word, we know that VCF had poorly defined (and evolving) requirements. There’s no way to match solutions to poorly defined requirements – that is fundamental. And, these poorly defined requirements were moving (evolving) – everything is changing. So, any solutions that were being worked and attempted had to be divided from what was actually required: hence they were false.
We know too that there were “overly ambitious” schedules. Schedules themselves are solutions; solving requirements for delivery of resources, for getting people together, for achieving consensus and progress, and for delivering solutions according to expectations.
An unrealistic schedule represents one that can’t be adhered to, and therefore is a false solution in and of itself. Think of it this way: Building an overly ambitious schedule is no different than relying on a calendar with 35 days per month. Neither reflects reality, and will ultimately compel you to fail.
Divides spawn divides. False solutions present themselves at all levels of the organization, within all strata and disciplines of a project, and often times small, not easily determined, falsities aggregate and contribute to the ultimate, overarching False Solution.
The conclusion for the FBI was that four years after terrorists crashed jetliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the FBI still did not have software for “connecting the dots”, and wouldn’t until Sentinel was finished and serving last year. Even then, Sentinel suffered fundamental project flaws: legacy hardware caused the system two critical outages. Emplacing new systems on outdated infrastructure and architectures is an easily avoided problem – at least it’s a simple one in terms of understanding. Match infrastructure to the overall solution’s requirements – it’s not mysterious. Ensure spec of physical spaces, server requirements, storage, processing power, bandwidth, hosting, access points, end-user enablements, etc.
Quote of the day:
I figure if someone at a party asks what I do, I can earn a valuable status upgrade by saying that I digitize tag clouds to e-enable infomediaries and engage data-driven long-tail folksonomies which harness rss-capable platforms and envisioneer cross-media functionalities.
– Matt Labash
Next: False Solutions can have False Projects