The inconvenient truths of project management reports

Will all corporate projects arrive on time and deliver as promised? T at the time, but maybe not, write four professors at MIT Sloan Management Review (Spring 2014). Accepting 5 Inconvenient Truths About Project Status Reports can greatly reduce the chance for nasty surprises.

TRUTH DRAW 1: Executives cannot rely on project personnel and other employees to accurately report project status information and speak up when they see problems. Most executives expect and assume that employees will report when they see issues that could negatively affect a project. In the negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union, President Reagan’s signature phrase was “trust, but verify.”

TRUE DRAW 2: A variety of reasons can cause people to misreport the status of the project; Individual personality traits, work climate, and cultural norms can play a role. Executives tend to attribute misinformation to poor ethical behavior on the part of the employee. But one of the best remedies is to build diverse teams, which can help balance culturally specific behavior that could inhibit accurate project reporting.

TRUE DRAW 3: An aggressive audit team cannot counteract the effects of misinformation on project status and withholding of information by project staff. The importance of building trust between those who report project status and those who receive the reports is the solution.

TRUTH DRAW 4: Putting a senior executive in charge of a project can increase misinformation. In fact, research suggests that the stronger the perceived power of the sponsor or project leader, the less inclined subordinates are to report accurately.

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TRUTH 5 DRAW: Executives often ignore bad news if they get it. Executives must not only listen to a variety of stakeholders, they must also take the warnings they receive seriously. If they don’t, they can unknowingly contribute to a climate of silence in which employees become even more reluctant to report bad news.

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