A Spooky Graveyard of Projects? 

“Here lies Project WILL-E … Rest in Peace never to rise again, please!”
“Project Eagle … It never landed, or took off, really”

Taphophiles are tombstone tourists. They visit cemeteries. Lots of them. An annual visit on Halloween doesn’t count.

Sounds morose, doesn’t it? But they’re not there to hunt ghosts or satisfy morbid curiosity. They read the tombstones, discuss architecture, enjoy the birds and the horticulture, reflect, and soak up the atmosphere. There is a lot of good atmosphere around lives well lived, memorialized in pretty sanctuaries.

Your organization has a history of projects. When employees discuss history, walking the rows of milestone markers, what do they see? A beautiful shrine to changes well executed, or crumbling epitaphs to a time best forgotten? What is the testimony of projects past?

I worked on a project where it was difficult to get employees to commit to a two-year term working on the program. When they looked at projects past, they saw burnout and failure, no matter how the organization spun it.

Change is often accompanied by pain. Failures sometimes happen. There’s no point in denying it. But every project needs a proper wrap. A celebration, or an admission of defeat. Whitewashing the truth only kills credibility, reducing the chances employees will sign up for the next round of change. They won’t believe that pain will result in gain.

What is written on the tombstones of your past projects? Is it time to revisit and cast them in the proper light? Give them a proper burial? It might make for a nicer cemetery and happier tourists.

Thoughtfully yours,
Jeff Skipper

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