Rob Millar provides us with an excellent explanation of why the Royal Mail let the prosecution of so many postmasters happen when the organisation couldn't believe1 that their new IT system was screwing up so badly:
[Generally speaking,…], those at the bottom of an organisation have a fairly accurate view of what’s going on. They’re close to the detail; they know whether their area of the project is on-track, and can infer from that the state of the wider project.
Those at the top, though, have no such first-hand knowledge. They rely on the bubbling-up of information from below, in the form of dashboards and status reports. But, […] those status reports tend to produce a comically optimistic view of the state of the project. Individual contributors presented a rosy picture of what they were working on to their line managers; middle managers gave good news to their bosses; and senior managers, keen to stay on the promotion track and perhaps hopeful that other parts of the project would fail before theirs, massage the truth yet again.
A couple of decades from now, is the phrase "the thermocline of truth" destined to be part of the received wisdom about how big organisations do major IT projects?
[Via Memex 1.1]
- You'd like to think that the middle managers and their superiors would be asked some hard questions about whether they were worth their salaries if they didn't (officially) notice a problem on this scale. ↩