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Pulling the Plug


Pulling the Plug

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Steve Jones
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Comments posted to this topic are about the item Pulling the Plug

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Dave Poole
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I think you are referring to the sunk cost fallacy.
Concorde is an emotive subject, a magnificent achievement and in many ways a victim of circumstances. The oil crisis of the 70s, the British inability to sell, political chicanery. In later years it was profitable though if you look at it in LTV terms it probably wasn't.
But the value of Concorde was far more than can be expressed by the short-arms-long-pockets brigade.
For those who visit Cambridge, UK take a trip to Duxford aerospace museum and see the Concorde prototype. Notice the old guys manning the display, get talking to them. They are immensely proud of that aircraft. The ideas that built Concorde came from the Avro Arrow (cocked up by the politicians and still a sore point in Canada), TSR2 (cocked up by the politicians). When Concorde was decommissioned tens of thousands turned out to see its final flight, many of them in tears. Competition for a place on the engineering team decommissioning it was fierce. What price would you put on that?
What great jump forward in aviation tech superseded a machine that could cross the Atlantic in 2 hours 53 minutes?

I've decommissioned many IT systems and the predominant emotion has been "thank God that <<expletive deleted>> has gone"! The best of them has gone unmourned even when the rightness of the underpinning idea has been acknowledged.

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Sean Redmond
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Isn't this the purpose of pre-defined success/failure requirements? This project shall be deemed a success when these criteria are met and a failure when these requirements are met.

To be fair, I've never been on a project that has actually had failure requirements and I have been on projects that have run over budget or gone over time etc.

When a project is important enough, and most seem to be when they are started, then the idea of failure is at the back of one's mind, although failing to plan is planning to fail.

There is also the Macintosh idea — nobody remembers a poor product and nobody forgets a late product. it doesn't really matter how usable the product is, release it when promised and improve it with each iteration. Although it was released early in 1984, it didn't really become useful until the advent of the Mac Plus in 1986. The 2 previous versions were essentially beta-versions. Indeed, one could hurl that accusation at Microsoft for a few of their features.
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[quote]
Sean Redmond - Thursday, February 28, 2019 4:40 AM
I've never been on a project that has actually had failure requirements
When someone says something so profound you wish you'd heard it decades ago!


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Possible that here in Ireland the "Concorde Fallacy" will be known in future as the "National Children's Hospital Fiasco". It really is remarkable how often and the extent to which people are willing to pour good money after bad. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_children%27s_hospital

Like Concorde this is politicians spending other peoples' money. Could be a lesson in that.
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Mr Celko often quotes Turkish(?) proverb, 'no matter how far you've gone down the wrong path, turn back.'

It's one thing on which I completely agree with him. The time and effort that has been expended on a bad idea will never be recovered and the idea will still be bad when it's finished. Sometimes it's better to just cut your losses, admit you were wrong and start again. Yes you may look bad but you'll almost certainly look worse if you stick to your original plan.


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Neil Burton - Thursday, February 28, 2019 6:44 AM
Mr Celko often quotes Turkish(?) proverb, 'no matter how far you've gone down the wrong path, turn back.'

It's one thing on which I completely agree with him. The time and effort that has been expended on a bad idea will never be recovered and the idea will still be bad when it's finished. Sometimes it's better to just cut your losses, admit you were wrong and start again. Yes you may look bad but you'll almost certainly look worse if you stick to your original plan.

It's easy for one or two people to pull the plug on a project with no hope of ROI (ie: a rental property). The problem when dealing with corporate multi-million dollar projects is that there are a lot of executives and stakeholders who's consensus are required to make that decision and a lot of employees with a vested interest in keeping it funded.



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One of the contributing factors that fuels the fallacy of sunk costs is the way business is run. Everyone is so concerned in quarterly profit and stock prices that change hourly that they lose sight of long-term goals. Sometimes when a project is started, the scope is simple but it creeps into something much larger and exceeds the capability of the original design. Starting over from scratch at that point should not be discounted because the ideas generated in the first plan sprouted new ones. That's the definition of research and development.
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David.Poole - Thursday, February 28, 2019 1:04 AM

But the value of Concorde was far more than can be expressed by the short-arms-long-pockets brigade.
For those who visit Cambridge, UK take a trip to Duxford aerospace museum and see the Concorde prototype. Notice the old guys manning the display, get talking to them. They are immensely proud of that aircraft.

I'll try to go by there sometime. I walked through a Concorde in Seattle.Not a big plane, and glad that it would be a short flight, but I wish I'd had the chance to fly one.


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Steve Jones
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Sean Redmond - Thursday, February 28, 2019 4:40 AM
Isn't this the purpose of pre-defined success/failure requirements? This project shall be deemed a success when these criteria are met and a failure when these requirements are met.

To be fair, I've never been on a project that has actually had failure requirements and I have been on projects that have run over budget or gone over time etc.

The hard part here is that you can't always decide what a failure is at the beginning.It's entirely possible that the market changes or your business changes, or a new product supercedes what you were doing. There are changes that make you re-evaluate later and you might decide to stop working on something.

It's a battle to dispassionately evlaute a project that's late and not working and ignore the costs. However, the costs spent are gone. You have to decide if future costs are better spent on this project or something else.


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