The thermocline of truth – Roblog, the blog of Rob Miller the post look at
What the Royal Mail IT scandal can teach us about the nature of truth inside organisations, and why things often look perfectly fine until right before they fall apart.
Focusing on IT projects. It does seem that any hierarchical organisation could have similar problems. Although we do not have dashboards and status reports in education could the way new initiatives arrive and are managed have similar problems?
In a 2008 blogpost, legendary IT consultant Bruce F. Webster applied the idea of the thermocline to large-scale IT projects. Why was it, Webster asked, that so many projects seemed to be on-track until just before their launch date, at which point it became suddenly clear that they were miles behind schedule?
Those at the top, though, have no such first-hand knowledge. They rely on the bubbling-up of information from below, in the form of dashboards and status reports. But, Webster noticed, those status reports tend to produce a comically optimistic view of the state of the project. Individual contributors presented a rosy picture of what they were working on to their line managers; middle managers gave good news to their bosses; and senior managers, keen to stay on the promotion track and perhaps hopeful that other parts of the project would fail before theirs, massage the truth yet again.
Does your organisation value truth above all, even from those at the bottom of the org chart? Do you create an environment in which people feel safe challenging their superiors? Do you publicly praise those who give bad news, rather than admonishing them for demoralising the team? Do you use objective metrics to measure progress