Samantha - there is something to what you say. I've listened to people talk about what they call the "cult of success." Their is fear of loss as opposed to reaching forward to what is to be gained. I've been there - either paralyzed by or running from fear as opposed to be motivated and energized by moving forward.
Yes Sam, vendors/consultants are the simple and easiest place to blame. There are some failures that are squarely the fault of vendors with over committing in the sales cycle, shipping buggy code and loading up implementations with inexperienced consultants. I've been in meetings where the message/pressure is to "get the business at any cost and then we'll worry about making it work." It seems like no one is willing to stand up, say that the "Emperor has no clothes" and speak what everyone already knows.
Neil - you are correct: taking responsibility starts with courage and integrity. One of the things I do for companies/vendors in the software evaluation/sales cycle is to have a "partnership round table" meeting where we discuss the really tough problems/issues that will be faced during the final days of evaluation, contract negotiation, implementation and deployment. As an outsider I can ask tough questions from both sides and not allow someone to just pass with a "fluff" answer. Another important solution is to have a well defined project charter and governance. It works out how both sides will partner together when things go wrong, and they will go wrong.
Corporate culture has a lot to do with it. Carrier project managers and decision makers blame the vendors, to save themselves "face" internally, and vendors blame the carrier project teams for lack of experience and incompetence. Of course both deserve some level of blame for every failure, but both are missing the broader point. Given that we KNOW that vendors wil have some difficulty implementing their products for our custom needs, and given that we KNOW carrier project teams will often lack the experience, skill and expertise required for these massive efforts, why don't we all wise up and take a different approach? I think the answer to my self-imposed question is easy - on both sides of the equation there are a lot of people who care more about their own job security than they care about a project being successful. Blaming others is an easy and safe way out. Taking responsibility is dangerous, and requires political courage - A character trait that is rare these days.
Ralph - it's almost like we need a "brown bag special" like the Saints use to have - http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2010/02/05/sports/05bagA/05bagA-articleLarge.jpg
I'll see what I can do for a lessons learned piece - Chet
Great rant Chet. Failure is the "f" word and unfortunately people are a lot more likely to say the "other f word" than they are to say failure. Hopefully people in this community won't be shy in talking about failures they have experienced.