energizing breakthrough performance

Launch and Abandon Syndrome

Author: ; Published: May 15, 2015; Category: Leadership, Strategic Planning; Tags: ; No Comments»

Absent coherent strategies by which individual initiatives and projects can be sorted and prioritized, a Darwinian “survival of the fittest” approach comes to be pursued. Each Monday, each new project left the executive conference room wearing a shiny gold badge.  The new gold badge trumped projects with older badges, tarnished badges or badges that had long since fallen off. Each new project competed successfully for money, talent, visibility and priority. Each new project was launched with great fanfare, and then abandoned thereafter. Following a maritime metaphor, talented staff gladly ride the new launch but only up to a point. The staff objective is to avoid getting stranded at sea too far from shore because, after all, each new project will enjoy its honeymoon halo only until it is capsized by the next latest and greatest project. Experience had demonstrated over and again that last month’s project will be abandoned in favor of this month’s new favorite as a matter of course. Indeed, staff coined a term for the CEO’s repetitive behavior pattern: The Launch and Abandon Program. 


Negative impacts for the organization: “What’s New?” becomes not only a greeting but the central organizing principle for setting priorities and allocating resources. Recency replaces strategy as the galvanizing force of organizational thought. As time progresses, critical, do-or-die projects cannot be distinguished from trivial ones. Individual staff members develop the wrong skills in this environment. The politics of attaching to the current hit parade of popular projects is all-important. Appearances trump substance as people elbow their way into the front-end of popular projects and then exit stage left with great agility so they can do it again.


The executive grows more frustrated as s/he can’t get done what s/he wants to get done and the reason for this condition is wholly unclear to the executive. Word gets around that the executive can’t think strategically.  Staff and the Chairman begin “working around” the executive’s blind spot.


A better way is to set priorities clearly and regularly. Use a quantitative pointing system to weigh and sort priorities. When a new initiative is launched, identify prior projects to be stopped, adjusted, or continued as is. Merge related projects with one another to conserve scarce resources. Go ahead and stretch your organization within reason but don’t fail to make tough decisions about what not to do. If you fail to make these decisions, you will be frustrated by perpetual stuttering and sputtering – along with lackluster results.

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