re: 5 Steps To Avoid IT Project Failures
Written with the usual fervor, eloquence and controversial statements; I agree with some, but not all. Yes, having an empowered and enthusiastic team of engineers is a key ingredient to success. But I ask, how do they become empowered? How do they get enthusiastic? And most importantly, how do they get empower and enthusiastic about a project that will eventually lead to profits for those who sign the front of the checks?
You wrote, G«£Dress up an engineer and stick him in the room with the executives and you get an Intel or a Microsoft in their early days. You get Silicon Valley, or at least the parts of it that haven't succumbed to the marketers and venture capitalists.G«• LetG«÷s examine one of those G«Ű Intel.
Intel was founded by Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce, two of the G«£traitorous eightG«• who left Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory to form Fairchild Semiconductor, then left Fairchild to form Intel. Their ultimate success at Intel was, I believe, formed out of the lessons learned from the failings of their previous employersG«™and of their own. First Shockley. Shockley was a Nobel Laureate in Physics and an experienced researcher and teacher, but G«£A disastrously bad businessman and a worse managerG«• according to industry historians. The hostile work environment he created and lack of leadership hardly empower and inspired a team of brilliant physicists and engineers.
And then there was Noyce himself. It is well known that Noyce failed to credit fellow engineers for their contributions, which eventually led to half of the traitorous eight leaving Fairchild for Teledyne in 1961. NoyceG«÷s engineering and operations management skills helped lead Fairchild to become the semiconductor market leader in the first half of the 1960G«÷s, but his personality G«Ű those G«£soft skillsG«• you mention G«Ű led to discord with and loss of the core technical and managerial leadership of Fairchild, and eventually their loss of market leadership to Texas Instruments.
When Moore and Noyce left Fairchild to form Intel along with Arthur Rock (one of those nasty Silicon Valley venture capitalists), they immediately hired Andy Grove (Intel employee #3). Industry historians credit IntelG«÷s success is to G«£the executive leadership and vision of Andrew GroveG«• G«Ű not to a team of engineers holed up in a conference room.
So whatG«÷s my point in all this? Success comes from equal parts inspiration and perspiration. I truly believe that engineers, pointed in the right direction and properly motivated will G«£perspireG«• to achieve that goal. But they also need visionary leaders who can G«£inspireG«• and capitalists who can empower (someone has to provide the conference room, pizza and Red Bull).
Former CIO of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
BS Electrical Engineering and MBA