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Speed and Green Lights

In Three Greens and All Locked Up we talked about projects where all the status reports were continuously green-lighted… This sparked a conversation with a colleague – we realised the parallel for the movie 'Speed' – you'll remember the plot… Ticking time bomb, not able to slow down, fear all round, all the traffic lights being changed to green to let the bus keep running on and on until they could figure out a solution… Well guess what, let's go back to the traffic lights a moment… all the traffic lights being changed to green to let the bus keep running… Is that what it's all about? 

  • People too afraid to stop? 

  • Having to change the lights to green to maintain momentum?

  • ​Not knowing what the solution is before they start?

Now, sometimes it's OK not knowing what the final solution is if you have a clear plan for finding out, you've got enough in reserve for any detours and you've defined what good looks like so you'll spot it when you see it. But even better if you have defined what bad looks like so that you can avoid or stop short of it… That would be good governance… But our 'Speed' projects are the opposite; in these ones it really is likely that:

  • people are too afraid to stop

  • people are having to change the lights to green

  • people are trying to maintain momentum

Odds are that this is the case for many projects where ego is put before effectiveness; where looking good is more important than doing it right… Thankfully this isn't the case for the majority of projects; but the minority is big enough to seriously threaten the integrity of the good ones – more traffic light troubles if the project managers and their supporting governance structures are less than transparent and continue to graffiti the status reports with green paint where amber and red should take their rightful and helpful place… After all, when you come to a junction, it's the red and amber lights that protect you, not the green ones… it's the red and amber lights that protect you, not the green ones…

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