Finding the lesson in the finest of failures

When Halle Berry arrived to accept her Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actress in the film Catwoman, the entertainment world got a lesson in humility that the IT industry still needs to learn.The Razzies, are they are known, sit at the opposite extreme of the Academy Awards, lampooning the worst Hollywood movies of the year. Madonna has been a regular winner. So has Sylvester Stallone. That Berry, who actually took an Oscar home for Monster’s Ball, would take the time to laugh publicly at her own failure was endearing. If Catwoman had not been a film but an IT project, she would probably have hidden under her desk until all had been forgotten.
At the rate we’re going, even our worst-performing companies and projects are likely to walk off with a trophy. The GTEC distinction winners have already celebrated at a gala in Ottawa. And the Canadian Information Productivity Awards were held earlier this month in Toronto. Microsoft recently honoured its channel partners with Impact Awards, and as I write this, there are still companies issuing press releases about their place on Deloitte & Touche’s Fast 50 list. Our own publications offer awards too, of course, from the recent Channel Elite (please see special section on page 16) to the IT Leadership Awards. Not all these events allow acceptance speeches, and good thing: no one would have time to actually work on their next project.
I don’t begrudge people who are recognized for their successes. What’s grating is that many of the same firms and individuals who stand up for a prize staunchly refuse to discuss any initiative that doesn’t go according to plan. If they mention a failure, it is long after the fact, and is usually in reference to work by their predecessors. This is the “before” picture which is painted in the PowerPoint presentations they prepare for various conference sessions, and the details are politely glossed over.
The lessons from these failures are obviously more instructive than most lauded triumphs, but the only place they seem to appear is in statistics. We all know that some 70 per cent or more of all CRM projects fail, but apparently the failures are always happening somewhere else. The real irony is that many of the projects being recognized at CIPA probably included at least a few periods where progress was less than stellar.
Maybe you can’t expect people to discuss these painful memories until a certain amount of time had passed, but if you survive them there’s plenty of honour in them. I know lots of people in IT love the Darwin Awards, which poke fun at what might be called the ultimate failure: to die of stupidity. If only someone were willing to organize the Darwin Project Awards, which would cheer on those who fail so badly they educate us all. Everyone loves a happy ending, but the plethora of industry pats-on-the-back mean we’re missing the juiciest parts of the story. We focus on the destination, not the journey. No wonder so many enterprise IT departments seem so lost.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Shane Schick
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