If You're in a Hole, the First Thing to Do Is Stop Digging

Isn't it interesting how some problems only continue to get worse over time? It is as if the problems have some mind of their own and grow like weeds in a well-fertilized lawn. Some problems seem to happen in spite of all of our efforts to prevent them, like that poor chap Murphy immortalized into his law “Whatever can go wrong will go wrong.” However, although we can't avoid all our problems in life, at least we can avoid making them worse.

Case in point: the “Big Dig” boondoggle of a civil engineering project that took place in Boston starting in the mid-1980s. A project with the seemingly simple goal of reducing traffic congestion by moving high-traffic corridors under the overcrowded streets of the city of Boston ballooned into a multidecade, multibillion-dollar blunder that to this day has yet to be completed. With billions already invested in this project, there seems to be no other option but to invest billions more. Alas, it seems that our IT systems are often Big Dig boondoggles of their own. Somehow, we must emerge from our black hole of spending—and the best way to do that is to stop digging the hole deeper.


Businesses, like people, are complex organisms. The larger the business, the more complex it becomes, by virtue of its numerous moving parts. However, what makes businesses complex are not just the number of employees, systems, and processes they are composed of ...

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