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Avoiding project ambiguity

Daniel Lock | Aug. 28, 2013
Want people to use your new system? Provide more clarity around objectives and goals, says Daniel Lock.

Sealy took its approach to change to a new level when faced with the task of unveiling a new mattress to increase sales in the flagging economy of 2008.

In this instance, Sealy did a few things right. The company created a team with an express goal. It pulled people from multiple departments away from their day jobs and brought them together in a group that was able to execute ideas efficiently.

It threw out the traditional hierarchy that is usually present in these types of groups so that people didn't have to go through the typical chain of command to accomplish work.

This streamlined the process and allowed a free flow of ideas and innovative new concepts. Their process for innovation also involved getting rid of typical limits, such as keeping costs low or avoiding prototyping.

Without these often confining boundaries, the group was free to explore all options and access unlimited avenues for design. At the end of the process, the product they churned out broke all previous sales records.

Providing some clarity
As a CIO, look at the following areas of ambiguity around the objectives and goals of your IT project and make some plans to reduce or eliminate them to provide more clarity to your business.


  • Vague issues and problems
  • Unreliable data/conflicting information


  • Too many goals that compete with each other
  • Lack of clarity on how success will be measured
  • Not enough resources and time to properly tackle the goal


  • Unclear hierarchy
  • Unclear roles and responsibilities
  • Politicking and favouritism


  • Finger pointing; accusations and blame instead of cause
  • Key personnel changing too often
  • Cause and effect poorly understood

Studying these you may find one or two issues you could clarify, but if there are three or more, be prepared for your change effort to slow down significantly.

Aim for clear situations, boundaries, relationships, and processes. By providing the right amount of clarity, you just might find that all of your IT projects will be a raging success.


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