Why do programs collapse? Business-critical is unique

Programs fall into two classes – regular and complex – with very little in between. Most organisations have got to grips with the regular, incremental program types, but still manage to make a mess of complex, business – critical ones.

As the future of the business typically depends on their success, these failures can be lethal.

Regular does not mean they aren’t demanding and difficult; they’re just more common. But to dignify ‘do your job’ programs with the word ‘strategic’ seems a little generous. The term ‘strategic program’ is so massively abused that when an authentic, business-critical program does come along, companies don’t create any true distinction.

They’re ‘business-critical’ because they’re cutting-edge; typically, the future of the business depends on them. They’re awkward and expensive, demanding complex, high-speed interactions between internal functions and major suppliers – with heaps of opportunities to drop the baton.

Moreover, because business-critical programs don’t come along very often – maybe once in five or ten years – companies are not likely to have the skills and capabilities in-house to run them. Execution velocity and precision are fundamental to winning.


If you’d like to explore more around other contributing factors to program failure, visit the video section “Why Programs Collapse” on our website.