5 Keys for Recovering from a Technology Failure

…how to accelerate your recovery and get results faster!

technologyBusinesses are increasingly reliant on technology to do large amounts of business-critical work; and when it goes wrong it can have a disastrous impact in terms of cost, time, people and effort. Not only have you ‘sunk’ considerable investments into something that has not delivered, but you now must recover from the situation and then play catch-up.

So, what can you do to accelerate this?

Five Tools for Accelerating Your Technology Recovery

  1. Do a Pre-Mortem

We are all familiar with post-mortems and forensic examinations from all the TV crime series. Post-mortems are good for telling you what went wrong, why it went wrong, and the consequences of things going wrong (death in this instance) – but it doesn’t change the fact that the individual is still dead.  It is case of being wise after the event, but being wise after the event doesn’t stop or prevent things happening.

Pre-mortems are different.  Pre-mortems are a great way to assess and think through a potential strategy or a negotiation. It is about being wise before the event.  Gather your team together and take them through the following exercise:

Andrew’s Five Steps in Carrying Out a Premortem

Step 1: Select a prospective strategy. Make sure you have a clear description of the strategic initiative.

Step 2: Set the scene.  You are a year in the future after you have implemented the strategy. Everything that could go wrong has gone wrong. To call it an unmitigated disaster would be kind. It is a total catastrophe and it has very serious consequences on the organization. People are not talking to each other. It has gone beyond being embarrassing. You know what has happened, but not why.

Step 3: Generate reasons for failure. Give everybody in the room three minutes to write down on post-it notes all the reasons why they think this strategic initiative failed. Do this without talking or discussing, this allows everyone to contribute their ideas and intuition. This allows you to capture and utilize the unique blend of experiences, mental models and insights that each person has.

Step 4: Share the reasons. Go around the group and get everybody, in turn, to share and explain one reason at a time.  Stick all the notes on the wall or whiteboard. As a group get them to group any common or shared reasons.  This helps you to identify the key reasons why the strategic initiative might fail.

Step 5: Reassess the strategic initiative. In the light of what has been uncovered, identify what will need to be changed about the strategy to improve it How will this impact other strategic initiatives, and what are the consequences? Remember, good strategy consists of strategic initiatives that interlink and leverage each other, they do not stand alone.

  1. Focus on the Outcomes

Where many people go wrong is they focus on the tasks they want done, not the outcomes they want to achieve.  Technology is a tool to help you achieve business results, don’t let it the project become driven by technology, that is a case of putting the cart in front of the horse. When looking at your outcomes ask these questions:

  • Are the outcomes suitable and realistic?
  • What are the risks and benefits associated with achieving or not achieving the various outcomes? How will they deliver real value to the business?
  • How do the various outcomes interact? Often outcomes can be at cross-purposes to each other. For example, a call centre having a key goal of improving customer satisfaction by having the same person manage the call from start to finish, but then also having a goal for people to handle a high volume of calls every day.
  1. Chunk It – Go for Simplicity

Technology projects can become very complex, and technology vendors often thrive on this as the perception is that the power in the relationship is with them as they have the technical expertise. Look to make it simple, this doesn’t make it easy but it provides clarity and focus. Break the project in to meaningful and manageable chunks by starting with the end result and working back to the present – this helps you to identify which chunk(s) to start with, and how they build on and leverage each other.

  1. Start with the End in Mind

A good approach is to start with the end in mind. Build a detailed picture of what you want the end-result from the technology implementation to look like. In doing this, don’t just focus on the technology but look at it in situ.  Consider the environment, the people involved, your senses. How will it look like, sound like, feel, touch or taste? Some of the questions you might ask could include: How will people be interacting with it? What will it mean for them? How will they feel and why?  What will the atmosphere be like when people use it? How will people be interacting with each other? How will they integrate this into their jobs, their roles, and personal growth? How will their job change and how will they feel about it?

  1. Build Alignment and Engagement

Technology in itself is of no value. A bit like a spade, technology has no use or value until someone picks it up and uses it. The benefit you have in using the spade is in how you use it, your desire to use it, and to do so in a way that helps the business achieve the outcomes it seeks. So how will you look to ensure your people want to use it, know how to use it, and do so in the way that drives alignment and results?

For technology to be effective you need people to be engaged with the technological adoption and implementation. For this you want people to commit, not to comply. Commitment comes from within and lasts in the long-term, compliance comes from external forces and as soon as they are removed then people revert to how they were behaving before – thus it only works in the short-run.

For people to engage themselves (because you can’t engage them, only they can do that), you need to ask them questions where they have to come up with an answer for themselves. For example, “How are you going to use this technology in your work?”  or “What do you need to do to manage the transition from the old way or working to the new way?” or “How can you improve the way you work?”  These questions help to create buy-in, commitment and engagement whilst getting people to align themselves with the business objectives. It also helps to leverage your change management plans.

Using these tools will help you to not only recover from a technology failure, but help you to accelerate your recovery and allow you to start future technological projects on a stronger, firmer foundation to deliver better results more quickly.

Share your thoughts and experiences.  What has worked for you? What tool are you going to try for yourself? Good luck and let me know how you go!

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