Evil One-Offs

Meme – One Offs

One-Off quick fix projects are tempting dangers that errode strategic enterprise innovation.

Many opportunities for innovation start with an immediate business problem.  This seed of need expands to deliver strategic value that go beyond the original challenge.

While the organization may benefit from a broad strategic vision, this path often fails to appeal to the original sponsor with a business problem.  They often favor small focused solutions that do “nothing” more than fix their problem.    These “one off” solutions will typically be:

  • Easier to Understand
  • Cheaper
  • Quicker


From the view point of a business stakeholder, a one-off project can seem to be the ideal fix for an immediate problem.  Small, cheap, and fast, they require less collaborative effort and dodge the threat of endless meetings and infinite review cycles.  

However, from the perspective of a Business Innovation Architect, One-Off’s are a mortal threat to big important ideas.  Quick fixes cripple an enterprise vision through:  

  • Loss of Motivation – With the immediate business problem solved, the energy behind the initiative can easily be lost.  The train cars are left without an engine.
  • Incompatible Architecture – A quick fix will seldom support a strategic architecture that enables a bigger vision.  Instead of becoming the first link in the chain of a new business capability, the One Off project becomes another incompatible bit that must later be rationalized with a broader vision.
  • Diminished Synergy – Often an enterprise initiative gains value by linking business problems and opportunities.    When a One Off solutions removes one element from the mix, the chances to create unexpected value are diminished.


The Business Innovation Architect must find ways to keep the strategic vision in play, even as business owners consider the seductive temptations of one-off solutions.    The BIA can:

Make It Worthwhile – Add value to the strategic solution so that it is worth the extra commitment.  This should be easy to do.  A strategic solution should deliver greater business value than a one off.

Open Up Opportunities – Provide the business owner with the chance to turn their modest business problem into a strategic career opportunity. Give them an equity interest in the project’s success by providing them a chance to play a prominent role on the enterprise project’s large stage.  

Create a Web – As quickly as possible establish strategic links with other groups and projects.  Make it difficult for stakeholders to pursue localized one-off solutions without negatively impacting others.

Of course it is also possible to seek strong executive sponsorship, in effect forcing stakeholders to follow a corporate dictate.  This is a possible backup strategy, but it Is far better for each business owner to decide on their own that it is in their best interest to pursue the strategic enterprise innovation.


Stop One-Off Quick Fixes or they will kill your strategic innovation. 

Good Reads: 


Brainstorming Questions

  • Which of our sponsors have a good reason to pursue a one-off?  Who actually might try?
  • From their perspective, is there a good reason to stay with the strategic solution? 
  • Can the strategic solution be enhanced to create new value?  Solve more problems?   Deliver added advantages?
  • Is there an opportunity to give the local stakeholder a more visible role?   How can they  and their team be given an equity stake in the projects vision and success?
  • How many connections can be created with other projects or business problems?  Do the owners of those challenges see the project as strategic?

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