It is a nasty cocktail; making a business case upfront and executing it 'change driven'.
Why? Because the majority of business cases are grounded in a kind of 'plan-driven-we-can-mold-the-world-as-we-see-it'. A business case is unfortunately often used - lets be frank guys - as a management fetish, a stick that can be used when things go differently and somebody needs to be blamed.
I work in environments where the IT-component is often pretty big and if we have learned one thing, it's that execution of anything should be change-driven. Why? Because, we know one thing for sure; we know very little when we start and we know nothing of what the future will bring.
Development of software is often situated in the complex domain and when something completely new needs to be done, it can even be situated in the chaotic domain (see figure). In these domains we do not have BEST PRACTICES! Yes, we might have good practices, maybe emergent practices (stuff we need to discover) or even novel practices (we need to experiment...). Context is leading, no cookbooks, methods, frameworks, blueprints or protocols.
And still we write our business plan: "If we do <x> it will cost <y> and the benefits will be <z>"
And shit happens:
1) The business case is followed by the letter and something is created that is totally useless. We have seen this happening over and over again with large ICT developments in government. 'but we executed the business plan'. And now the weird part; senior management is satisfied.
2) We go 'change-driven', discover, experiment, learn, improve and eventually end up with something successful. But unfortunately, something different as the stuff stated in the original business plan. And now the weird part; senior management is dissatisfied.
What is happening here? Two things.
1. TRUST/SAFETY is missing:
a) TRUST of senior management in its executioners and to be truly interested
b) Executioners that need to feel SAFE to give feedback to senior management
2. Management Accounting sucks
There is another dynamic going on. And that dynamic is rooted in the school of management accounting and in the DNA of many executives. Suppose I am manager of business unit X and I execute a highly innovative solution for a specific purpose. This innovative solution turns out to be efficient and effective for business unit Y and Z as well, so they decide to use it. Hell, you even adapt your solution here and there to match their requirements.
What happens in old school management accounting? I can hear their creepy bureacratic voices: "your solution was way over budget and you did not make your benefits". You are dumbfounded...
NASA went to the moon and in doing so they revolutionised healthcare and saved countless lives. I'll bet ya, old school management accounting would regard NASA's trip to the moon as a failure.....
Old school management accounting is much to prominent and its decisive power is far too high. I was at the Drucker conference in Vienna last year and I heard Clayton Christensen saying that 'the finance role in the average Board of Directors should be downgraded in order for innovation to thrive'.
I get him now...