Why do programs collapse? The first signs

Signs of trouble trickle out slowly. Maybe a critical milestone has failed to come about, or a key supplier has objected to extra work. But the real clincher is when the CEO gets a feeling that the story just does not hang together.

These fears are never unfounded; the state of the program is always materially worse than anyone had imagined.

Program ‘rescue’ has been a way of life for Mentor for the past 20 years. Typically, a client program is off the rails for many months.

Clues about looming misfortune drip out with monotonous regularity. Perhaps, a critical milestone has been missed – or a key supplier has complained about extra demands. Some team members may have voiced concerns – or maybe the CEO has seen the warning signs before and has a ‘feeling’ that the story just doesn’t hang together. Triggers like these prod the CEO to dig deeper.

These worries are almost never unfounded. Typically, the situation is always much worse and the program is seriously off track.

The reasons business-critical programs crash remain constant across the years; they’re depressingly consistent. Explanations range from vague objectives; fantasy plans; dreadful supplier performance and hopeless control systems. At the other extreme – truant sponsorship; karaoke program management and under-resourced teams.

If this isn’t bad enough – unworkable organisation structures with all the staying power of a pudding in a microwave.


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