Sometimes when we are hired to put a project back on track, the client has hired a 3rd party to build part of their solution. In this particular case, the 3rd party was hired much before the project would be considered to be off the tracks. There could be many reasons why the 3rd party isn’t working well in the solutioning of the product. Maybe they haven’t worked with a Fortune 500 company before, so they are unfamiliar with the needs of a F500. Or maybe the combined experience of the 3rd party vendor is not enough to build a good product. Or maybe the 3rd party over-promised in order to get the big deal. The list goes on for potential issues. The common factor is sometimes the 3rd party solution isn’t the best and is not providing the best experience. As consultants, we always try to help by advising what should be done. However, it’s possible that our recommendations aren’t heeded. If our recommendations are not heeded, do we fight for what we think is right or do we let it go and let that part fail?
In some, very infrequent, situations, it might be appropriate to let that part fail. Recently, we had to make that decision on a client project, where it was known that the deliverables provided by the 3rd party were not the best and we did advise how to make them better, however, our advice was not followed. Everyone on the project was aware of this issue. Because of the known issue that the 3rd party does not take all advice well and the known issue that their deliverables are not up to par, we made this decision. Our client agrees with us, that this is indeed the best path.
Making the decision to let someone fail is difficult. We want everyone to be successful and we want to enable them to be so. Making the decision to go against that is against our nature. However, in some situations it is necessary. If you encounter a party that is resistant to your help, I mostly advocate letting them see your opinion by giving situations and employing other ways to explain your point of view. However, through failure, you know that the person or party making the mistake is going to learn from their mistake. It’s proven that people learn well from failure and that failure can be a good, humbling experience.
We are now discovering the repercussions of letting the 3rd party fail in this particular area. So far, it’s not too bad because the area in which we let them fail is small and doesn’t affect much, and we can correct the repercussions as they arise. Fortunately, the failure is not creating much extra work for anyone, other than the 3rd party which, fortunately, only they will pay for.
If you are presented with a similar situation where you need to decide whether to let someone fail, I would advocate first to do your best to not let them fail. If this proves unsuccessful, then you can bring it up with your manager or co-workers to get their advice. In 95% of the cases, you will help the person to not fail in order to ensure the success of the project. In the other 5%, you will carefully decide how to let someone fail and to what extent. Yes, this is more of a ‘controlled’ failure, because, of course, you don’t want this failure to de-rail the project. You want the person to learn, but not at too great of an expense. Sometimes you have to let someone fail.