The £500 bet

This particular exercise is based on the results of a survey undertaken by a consulting organisation of failed and delayed projects.
In their interviews of the project team involved in the failed and/or delayed projects, they asked the following question: Back when you defined this plan, if you took the time to pause and think about it, how many of you would have bet $500 of your own money on its success?

The answer was none of them.
In other words, right from the outset, something in each of the people involved was already telling them that there was a problem – but they continued anyway. In many cases, the people responsible for the project may not even have been consciously aware of the danger – but betting our own livelihood gets us to think more deeply about things. When we ask ourselves to put a really personal stake in the pot, we re-examine everything, including our gut, and we take the nagging doubts seriously.
And what is really interesting about the survey is that this recollection was still available to those people months or years later.
But months or years later is no good. The time to ask the question of the £500 bet is back at the point when something can be done about those uncertainties.
As an exercise, the £500 bet is really very simple. Ask people to imagine taking £500 out of their bank accounts, and putting it on the table in front of them. Then ask them to raise their hand if they want to bet that money on the project being a success – the right result in the right timescale. Don’t rush them, just let them ponder.
Then ask them, what would need to change in order for them to feel (even) more confident about placing that bet, and list the answers on a flipchart.
The group can them work through the items on the flipchart in order to address the various things that would otherwise undermine the success of the project.

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