'We must learn from this failure'

February 28, 2003

Enimm commissioned Brighton University business academic David Francis to report on the collapse of the project, hoping to extract some positive lessons.

Dr Francis noted the irony that he was never paid and never delivered his analysis. This week he outlined why the project failed. "This was an innovative idea right for its time. But it was too grand and overblown in its aspirations. There are aspects of heroic failure about it."

Dr Francis said that there were five key "learning points":

* The online learning modules - designed to last 100 hours each - had not been properly market tested with their target audience of small business managers

* The organisational model had many disparate and relatively autonomous components - academics in different universities and different departments - which made it hard to manage

* There was disagreement about the purpose of the project, which "has a corrosive and on-going damaging effect once people are not working to a coherent vision"

* The row between Mr Goodall and Mr Bennett was crippling. "Conflict between members of top teams absorbs energy and stunts progress and divests the attention of people in the organisation"

* "Project failure has an emotional cost as well as practical consequences.

People have invested of part of their working lives in something that has failed and feel a sense of loss and betrayal."

Dr Francis said the failure to deliver the objectives was not total. "But if we fail to learn the lessons of what went wrong, we will have lost an important opportunity."

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