Tuesday, February 20, 2007

February 20, 2007 – Avoiding Trouble with Honesty

Communication is a huge part of project management. One aspect of it that needs to be practiced more often is honesty. Unfortunately there are times when what we say may be truthful but is far from honest as illustrated in the following examples.

A “User Perceived Bug” is the term Microsoft uses to describe something that is coded to spec but doesn’t work the way any reasonable individual would think it should. I found this out while speaking with support about MS Project’s inability to re-baseline Resource information. They actually said it with a straight face, too.

“Undocumented Features” are those quirks in our systems that aren’t in the specs and somehow sneaked through testing. Who’s to say someone doesn’t want the header on the bottom of the report?

And who hasn’t heard their management say they have an “opportunity” for you when they really mean “problem.” If you hear they have one for you, run away. Fast.

Depending on your environment it can be extremely tempting to divert blame, cover up problems and alter perceptions with our communication. If your workplace is hostile or overly competitive I can understand your dilemma, but my experience has taught me that honesty is the best practice. Here are some warning lights to help keep us honest.
1. If you have to determine how to spin the information, you are on thin ice.
2. When that little voice inside your head says something doesn’t smell right you should listen to it.
3. Any time you say, “I think they’ll buy that” you probably shouldn’t be trying to sell it.
4. If you are trying to pick someone to blame you are heading for trouble.
5. When you say, “I hope management doesn’t find out” you should be the one telling them.

We had a situation once where a developer removed the wrong report from the production system. The natural reaction was to fix the problem, cover it up and hope no one discovered it was missing. The better solution was determine who was impacted, notify them of the situation and get it resolved as quickly as possible. Any time the impacted party discovers the problem, your troubles increase exponentially.

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