|When you aim for the wrong target, success = failure.|
Usually, it doesn’t matter how hard it might be to achieve our VISTA project goals, because their success or failure is irrelevant. Most failed VISTA projects were pointed at the wrong targets. Hitting the target does you no good when it’s your own foot you’re aiming at.
We try too hard to accomplish our goals, and we don’t try hard enough to choose the right goals. When we aim our organizations in the wrong direction, even vast budgets and resources cannot help us; on the contrary, the greater our progress, the worse off we are.
Successfully leading the organization in the wrong direction has been the paramount problem with VISTA development efforts since about 1998. The further VISTA managers have led our community toward badly chosen technological targets, the less productive VISTA development has become. It cost billions of dollars more to inch VISTA marginally ahead during the past fifteen years than it did to achieve the miles of progress we made before that.
We are failing because we pursue the wrong goals, but we are not learning from our failures.
A recent study of human rationality discovered that when people who subscribe to mistaken ideas are confronted with irrefutable evidence that they are mistaken, instead of acknowledging their mistakes and changing their minds they tend to cling more fiercely to their now discredited ideas. This same thing happens to those of us who lead our organizations in the wrong directions. Rather than stop to reconsider our goals, we recommit ourselves and our resources further, at most revising our tactics so we can head in the wrong direction more effectively.
There is a lack of introspection about our choices of goals. We treat requests for reconsideration as indecisive, impractical, and irrelevant, as though the main danger we face were a lack of effectiveness rather than an excess of effectiveness in the wrong direction. We believe it is our job to be go-getters, proving our worth as managers by the amount of movement we can create rather than by the rightness of that movement.
We behave as though agreement about our goals corresponded in any way to whether those were the right goals. In the real world outside the Beltway of Washington D.C., neither majority agreement nor even consensus matters. The real world is not impressed by our opinions, our votes, our public relations, or our change-management strategies. Even if everyone agrees the Sun revolves around the Earth, the converse remains true.
The laws of information science are just as relentless and implacable as those of rocket science. We defy them at our peril. Nothing can save from failure a project aimed in the wrong direction unless we reconsider and correct its goals.
The search for the right targets is the first duty of a VISTA manager or planner, and learning from failure the second.