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How do you handle a project that clearly isn’t going to meet your goals?


SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership — tracks feedback from over 240,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each week in our newsletter.

How do you handle a project that clearly isn’t going to meet your goals?

  • Kill it as soon as I know it won’t work and then move on: 74%
  • Keep trying even though I know it’s a lost cause: 10%
  • Double down on my investment and try to make it work: 16%

Don’t sink the opportunity with the costs. Once it’s spent, it’s spent. Resist the urge to try to avoid a loss and recoup sunk costs. A way to get past this hang-up of loss avoidance is to recognize the opportunity cost of not making a new investment. Not only are you throwing good money/time/effort after a wasted cause, you’re missing new opportunities to invest those resources more wisely. Ask yourself “What other productive uses do I have for these resources?” Asking that question can highlight the opportunity you might miss by continuing to chase a dying project.

Mike Figliuolo is managing director of thoughtLEADERS. Before launching his own company, he worked at McKinsey & Co., Capital One and Scotts Miracle-Gro. He is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He’s the author of three leadership books: “One Piece of Paper,” “Lead Inside the Box” and “The Elegant Pitch.”