The recent press regarding many more\u00a0IT supplier lawsuits\u00a0reminds us that the ability to decipher the human element in these complex efforts is often the key competency required to be successful.\nSeveral years ago, I read \u201cInto Thin Air\u201d by Jon Krakauer. It is a chronology of events that took place on May 10th \u2013 11th, 1996, when two expedition teams got caught in a storm while attempting to climb Mt. Everest. Tragically, both expedition leaders and three of the team members died during the storm.\nThese expeditions were commercial in nature, meaning that individuals\u00a0paid to be guided\u00a0to the top by a professional mountaineer.\n\nThe expedition leaders talked extensively about the need for a turnaround-time rule, mandating that if a climber failed to reach the summit by one or two o\u2019clock in the afternoon, s\/he must turn around. This reduces the risk of a climber needing to descend in the dark of night. On May 10th \u2013 11th, 1996, however, several members of the expedition team did not reach the summit until late in the afternoon. Some even arrived after four o\u2019clock. Then a massive storm hit. These unfortunate climbers found themselves trying to descend the mountain in the darkness, during a raging blizzard. Five people did not make it back.\n\nMt. Everest vs. an ERP deployment\nWhile reading the book, I started drawing some parallels between climbing Mount Everest and deploying a major ERP system. The software you buy is the path that you choose to climb the mountain, and the System Integrator (SI) is your commercial guide. You put your trust in the SI to prepare you for the journey and make a significant investment of both your time and resources to complete the trip, just like those that trusted their lives to the mountain guides in 1996.\nOne of the questions I asked myself while reading the book was, \u201cHow could these experienced guides make the bad decision to continue to climb?\u201d In doing some additional research, I came across an\u00a0article\u00a0by Harvard University\u2019s Professor Michael Roberto that explores the events of these days. Roberto hypothesizes that our cognitive limitations, not our lack of intelligence, lead to errors in judgment. He describes cognitive biases that everyone experiences while making decisions. These decision-making traps affect novices -- but they also ensnare experts. Roberto\u2019s article outlines 3 biases that specifically contributed to the poor decision-making on Everest:\nOverconfidence\u00a0\u2013 Having made the trips over 40 times, the experienced guides became overly optimistic in their abilities. Their own confidence spilled over onto the climber clients as well. Krakauer described his climbing group and himself as \u201cclinically delusional\u201d during their trip.\nSunk-Cost Effect\u00a0\u2013 The sunk-cost effect refers to peoples\u2019 tendency to escalate commitment to a course of action in which they have made a substantial investment. These climbers had each spent $65,000 and many months of training prior to setting foot on Everest. They violated the turnaround-time rule because they did not want their efforts to have been in vain.\nRecency Effect\u00a0\u2013 The weather on the mountain in the years prior to 1996 had been relatively peaceful. Therefore, climbers underestimated the probability of a bad storm. A decade earlier, however (before many of the guides had been on Everest), there were three consecutive seasons during which no one climbed the mountain because of the wind.\nI have personally experienced these biases while approaching major ERP go-lives. I have repeatedly witnessed the\u00a0Overconfidence\u00a0of an SI (\u201cDon\u2019t worry, we\u2019ve done this hundreds of times before\u201d). The SI often works on a contract with budget and schedule incentives, driving them to push for premature go-lives, even if a go-live is not in your company\u2019s best interest.\nI have seen the\u00a0Sunk-Cost Effect\u00a0take place within executive management teams. Go-live dates are established, and the executive management team refuses to move them because of their internal desire to protect their corporate reputations.\nI have seen the\u00a0Recency Effect\u00a0take place when, after a few successful go-lives, companies start to cut-corners \u2013 only to be burned by a problem that could have been avoided if proper precautions had been taken.\nCould those deaths on the mountain have been avoided? Yes.\nIf the guides and climbers had recognized that these cognitive biases exist and followed their own turnaround-time rule, Krakauer\u2019s group could still be reminiscing about their climb today.\nERP implementation disasters can also be avoided. The risk of ERP implementation disasters can be greatly reduced by:\n\nRecognizing that all participants in the implementation will have cognitive biases that guide their decision-making process.\nPutting in place rules to guide go-live assessments.\nExecuting regular independent reviews of the program progress from those not operating under the same cognitive bias as the project team or the SI.\n\nLearn from Jon Krakauer\u2019s book and do not let your ERP implementation go into thin air.