How soon do you know a project is about to fail?

Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash

I failed more projects than succeeded in my early career. Not that my success rate has been boosted lately. Not really. I still fail at lots of things in rapid fashion as used to be. What’s different now is the story that I’m about to share with you.

I appreciate the rain and bring a raincoat with me every day. When the project has any issue, I look at it, point it out, tell some people about it, and then address it, mostly in the public space. If none of us can figure out the solution or act upon it, I let it fail in front of our eyes. Cruel as it sounds, I let it rain without attaching my emotions to it. I pretend it’s not my project, to be honest, most of the time the stuff isn’t my project at all.

I’m getting older, and tougher. But it’s not about that. It’s because I realized that my job is here to make sure we are going to be successful. I don’t care who’s going with me or not, literally and I don’t care if we make mistake or not, and I only care if we are going to win or not today. Seriously.

If you can’t face the issue as brutal as what I stated above, you have a problem to win. And I can’t afford to lose for trivial reasons. Winning isn’t just the mindset, it’s all about the execution steps. The first step is to see as clear as possible and hold your thoughts of failing and pretend nothing happens. This is the first step.

I know we are all curious about this question as in the title. And personally I tend to ask myself this question as well subconsciously. Because unless I know the answer, how do I make sure I won’t fail next time.

So let me share something I think it’s relevant to this question. Say you are developers, you are building the projects that you are responsible for. But it turns out you are not the one who’s fighting for your own requirement, negotiating budgets for your assigned tasks. I think this is the first line of sight this project is going to fail. Why?

In a correct feedback system, you make it work, you get credits, you get better paid or promoted, which encourage your to work more effectively. This is a correct circle. However when this circle is broken in whichever reason, people become “smarter” to figure out what they believe to be the correct way. Making an example, if a manager is fighting with a developer on the budget, and the detailed execution constantly. This can become quite ugly. Both camps contribute to the ultimate failure. Manager shouldn’t put his hat in terms of the execution since whatever he says is in-relevant towards the real scenario, btw he doesn’t even know that much of detail to start with. Developer shouldn’t let this happen at the first place, the budget set by him, and he holds full responsibility in delivering the solution that he proposed in his time frame. If he couldn’t get it working eventually, the team will adjust accordingly to this. But before that, the trust and the responsibility has to be crystal clear. People shouldn’t hold responsibilities for others because he/she is not supposed to get the credit for that in return. If you are really that good, you should become both manager and developer at the same time so that you can be your own boss.

So to answer this question without a dodge. I think you can tell whether this is going to fail very quickly. When people in your team starts to have lots of unhealthy argument, for instance, they spend too much time talking about each other’s story putting their feet in each other’s shoes constantly. This is the time you know the meeting is literally over. And did I tell you people are smart to adapt? Yes very quickly people are going to be in-responsible for his own task, just because they can find millions of ways to dodge that after the break-up of the good feedback.

What do you want me to do when that happens? I don’t know. I don’t care, but if I were you, you should cut the loss, at least declare the failure before you dig too deep into it. Fair? Remember it’s not your problem to fail, but it’s your problem to not see the failure beforehand. All in all, you should be responsible for your own sucesss.



#OpenToWork Front-end Engineer, book author of “Designing React Hooks the Right Way” sold at Amazon.

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Fang Jin

#OpenToWork Front-end Engineer, book author of “Designing React Hooks the Right Way” sold at Amazon.