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Communications of the ACM

Communications of the ACM

How to create a successful failure

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Many people enjoy working on software projects that wing their way towards failure. After all, troubled projects offer so much more in the way of excitement and advantages than those that boringly plod their way to success. For instance, projects in turmoil provide numerous ways to look good. You can make both employer and customer deliriously happy, become a hero, and gain a promotion merely for getting something, anything, delivered on time—while on a smoothly running project, it's expected! Even if you don't make the delivery, you can still appear heroic and get promoted. But if you screw things up, who knows? Then there is the increased job security. Projects in turmoil usually go on far past their original deadlines, as customers are loath to cancel and lose their investment. Your company benefits too, as it gets paid much more than if the project was merely successful.

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