Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The ego driven Business Intelligence professional

It is said that implementing a Business Intelligence program is one of the most daunting journeys a company can embark on. We all have heard the statistic that 8 out of 10 projects fail to meet at least one (if not all three) of the success objectives: timeline, quality or scope. Numerous articles have been written on the failures, and detailed analysis of why programs fail abound in the internet. I would like to focus this blog on the BI professionals who made the projects successful and take a deep dive into what motivated them to continue to push for a successful delivery while many others failed on the way.

After multiple interviews with colleagues across different organizations, one factor emerged as a potential explanation: most of the projects that succeeded, literally had been through the effort of “organizational heroes” who continued to look for solutions even after they had encountered significant obstacles. I was truly surprised that even those projects which were considered very successful went through a period of uncertainty in the event of one or multiple failures. The projects which were successful were not the ones that did not face any problems, but the ones who were able to quickly recover from failures and open other paths for success.

In fact, one of the phrases that came out as a theme was “Do whatever you need to do, but fail fast”. If failure is not an option, but a stepping stone for success, we come back to the core issue that this blog is trying to explore:  why some projects have organizational heroes that are able to recover from whatever failures goes through? The answer surprised even me: Ego.

Wikipedia defines ego as the realistic part that mediates between the desires of the id (uncontrolled instincts) and the super-ego (moralized rules). In practice, ego relates to how proud an individual is of their professional work, mediating between perfection and disdain.  People with a healthy ego will recover quickly from any and all failures as they have the desire to do well and don’t get lost in the intricacies of trying to deliver a perfect product. People with a strong id or a strong super ego will not be able to manage failure well, either they will immediately give and will not care to try to again or will spend an exorbitant amount of time examining what went wrong and how to avoid another similar failure, effectively incurring in “paralysis by analysis”.

As such, it becomes of paramount importance to consider ego as one of the primary criteria when selecting team members for these projects. You need people who have already showcased the ability to learn from their failures by internalizing the right amount feedback and making the required change faster than the time it takes to declare the project a failure. Further, as a manager you also have to be mindful of how you are interacting with the team to help them focus their energies and ego! into solving the project problems/issues rather than being worried about how they will be perceived or larger issues like career progression (e.g. promotions or other incentives)

ego is not something you are born with, but something you learn through experiencing success and failures in life.  However, given the importance that it plays in life (and projects!) it is something you definitively need to be aware of and more importantly a character trait that you need to cultivate and protect in the right way.

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