Cascading ProblemsBy Faisal Hoque | Posted 2010-03-01 Print
Be clear on project objectives before falling in love with features -- or you could end up with an expensive dud.
Everything seemed perfect, except for a few things. The Bradley’s thin aluminum armor didn’t provide the strength to stand toe-to-toe with a Soviet tank. The addition of guns made the Bradley taller, negating its use as a scout vehicle. Its heavier weight made water-crossing operations impossible without the addition of a complicated floatation system. And the weaponry and ammunition took up so much space that the vehicle could only carry five or six troops, limiting its utility as a personnel carrier.
Worse, the military never field-tested the Bradley prior to deployment in 1983. A combination of weak armor, poorly placed fuel tanks and high profile made it highly susceptible to detection and destruction. It wasn’t until 1985 that the first live-fire tests reveal serious protection deficiencies. And problems with the swimming system resulted in several soldiers drowning during training exercises. Testing and post-deployment experiences forced the Pentagon to spend billions of dollars in retrofits to give the Bradley “improved survivability.”
With a development cost greater than $10 billion, an average unit price of $3 million, and a post-deployment price tag of $5 billion in improvements, the Bradley is one of the Pentagon’s greatest blunders of all time.
Dismissing the Bradley as military and bureaucratic ineptitude is easy. In fact, it’s a classic example of what happens when you put technology ahead of the objective. Pentagon brass was so enamored with what they could do with the weapons and machinery that they overlooked the practical implications of their decision.
While Bradley project managers and Pentagon procurement officers believed they were acting in concert, in reality there was a lack of communications, created by a blinding desire to field a new system. While military and government procurements are distinct from project and operational management in the private sector, the lesson of the Bradley is the need for convergence and for placing the mission objective ahead of the technology.
Even the best intentions of the best leaders can leave the organization befuddled. Perhaps, however, we should cut them some slack. Leaders today are charged with creating organizations that are agile and resilient, global in perspective yet sensitive to a single customer whim, constantly adding new ventures while perfecting the old, and assessing a glittering array of new technologies while holding the line on spending.
Many challenges stand in the way of government, businesses and corporate leaders, and overcoming these challenges requires new perspectives, thinking and management framework that come together in a focused plan of action. Some of these management framework and tools will be used by the C-suite, others by project teams, but their efforts will mesh together and unify the enterprise top to bottom in its decision-making and execution. This is business-technology management convergence.
Faisal Hoque (www.faisalhoque.com) is the founder and CEO of BTM Corporation (www.btmcorporation.com). A former senior executive at GE and other multi-nationals, Faisal is an internationally known entrepreneur and thought leader. He has written five management books, established a non-profit institute, The BTM Institute, and become a leading authority on the issue of effective interaction between business and technology. © 2010 Faisal Hoque
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