Thursday, 18 June 2009

Admitting mistakes

(By Richard Holway 3.00pm 18th June 09) For all those interested in Public Sector IT, Tony Collins excellent Computer Weekly article on Ian Watmore – How to fix government IT - is well worth the read.

Watmore came to the Public Sector as Chief CIO after serving as CEO of Accenture UK. He then made it to the Head of Delivery @ Number 10. As he leaves to take up the CEO role at the Football Association, his views on Governmemt IT come from experience on both sides of industry. Indeed one of Watmore’s strongly held views is unless you have experience of failure, you really won’t have the experience required to run a big IT project.
I have similarly strongly held views. Back in 1985, Computer Weekly ran a similar profile on me under the headline “If you can’t make a mistake, you can’t make a decision”. To this day, my kids say they are going to put that on my tombstone! Mistakes are crucial in business and life. Admitting them early so that the cost implications are mitigated or, indeed, so that corrective measures can be taken, is key. Most problems arise because managers think their manhood is under threat by either admitting a mistake or adjusting course. So they plough on regardless – usually undermining everyone who dares to question them.

Public sector IT is plagued with such examples. Big projects that should have been scrapped early on. Managers and Ministers who have been too scared or just too cowardly to admit mistakes and adjust.

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