Introduction to Compound Thinking

Right now there are hundreds, if not thousands of IT projects heading toward failure. Chances are you’ve worked on one of these projects, perhaps you’ve even been in charge. You are not alone, in fact according to the famous 1995 Standish Group study, only 16.2 percent of all IT projects are successful.

Unfortunately it’s even worse than that because the study defined project success as being on time and budget and meeting project goals, but said nothing about actually gaining user acceptance, or meeting a business need.

When projects fail, it’s easy to blame the technology — we blame problems with the software development toolkit, problems with the hardware, problems with vendor supplied components, etc. It’s also easy to blame other people, managers blame employees for not living up to commitments, employees blame managers for setting unrealistic schedules.

But the reality is that most projects have a better chance of success if even one person consistently makes the right choices. Whole projects can be saved from failure by a single project team members gently but effectively confronting her manger about an unrealistic timeline, or presenting the project team with a simple bullet point list of the 10 most significant risks the project faces.

There are critical moments in every project that can spell success or failure, and the only reason any of our projects ever succeed is that someone knew what to do and took the initiative to make it happen.

Compound Thinking is all about learning how to be that person. The one who knows the right thing to do, the right time to do it, and has the courage to just do it.