Experience of failure can be an important virtue in a senior manager of a large IT-related project or programme, but employers usually seem to want people who’ve had an unbroken chain of success.
Someone who has had an overview of a major failed project from conception to cancellation and who can identify the lessons may be as useful, and perhaps more so depending on the individual, than a person who knows only of success.
Whereas the manager who knows only of success may dismiss showstopping problems as minor and transitory, the manager who has experienced failure may be more finely-tuned to recognising the early warning signs of a potential calamity.
That is why a job advert for a pan-Strategic Health Authority Programme Director for the NHS’s £12.4bn National Programme for IT [NPfIT] , is a little worrying. The advert, which is marked “management in confidence”, seems to seek someone who will countenance only success, whose senses, perhaps, should be dulled to any possibility of failure.
If everyone working on the NPfIT were expected to be positive at all times, talk in euphemisms, and exude the optimism of a board member of a US company whose job title was longer than this sentence, then nobody would speak out if they saw a juggernaut of failure approaching head on.
The advert looks for someone who can “lead and motivate the pan-Strategic Health Authority functional team so that “employees are engaged with and committed to the Programmes aims and priorities”.
It’s an important job because, under what is called the NPfIT Local Ownership Programme, much of the responsibility for the success or otherwise of the national programme is passing from Whitehall’s Connecting for Health – an agency in charge of the NPfIT – to NHS strategic health authorities.
The NPfIT Programme Director will need to:
• ensure successful delivery of local implementation plans including NPfIT deployment programmes in accordance with agreed contractual Deployment Plans.
• have a track record of sustained success at board level in a large complex NHS, public or commercial organisation with experience of working in a complex, multi stranded, political environment;
• have a proven record of delivery of multi million pound programmes;
• be a strategic thinker and decision maker with track record of successful delivery of plans;
• have a successful track record of supplier management;
• be a visionary individual, able to engage, share, enthuse and communicate the programme vision internally to all staff and externally to a variety of stakeholders;
Not much scope then for any candidates who would, if necessary, act as counterpoint to any over-optimism among colleagues.
And not much scope for a candidate who would ask not what colleagues are doing, but what they are not doing. Are they, for example, not daring to put pressure on ministers to hold a published, independent inquiry into the NPfIT?