Horseshoes, hand grenades, and the sunk cost fallacy

Have you ever heard someone say a project is “almost complete, except for a few details”? That “most of the work has been done”? You probably pictured something like this:

First image

What if the reality is this?

Second image

“Where you are” feels close to “where you need to be”, but the approach that got you to the former will not get you to the latter. The 80% solution that’s good enough for a demonstration is not good enough to serve as a foundation. By forging ahead on the current path you are moving further away.

There are times when you simply don’t know “where you need to be”. However, it’s much more common for leaders to know where they need to go and still not get there. Often they fall for the sunk cost fallacy, throwing good effort after bad. They lack the wherewithal to acknowledge that the direction is wrong and to do what’s necessary to get on the right path.