Has any Project Status Report looked suspiciously perfect to you ?
The is an example of a weekly report where everything seems right from the outside with no issues presented from the project manager (PM) but when you dig deeper the ‘Red’ starts to appear; this concept is called the “watermelon effect”.
As PMO (Project Management Office) when you review each week’s status report everything looks OK ..i.e. ‘Green’
But in reality, the project manager is not ethically reporting the real issues or potential risks. Upon investigation, you discover that the project has many issues like resource conflicts with other projects and the true status is supposed to be yellow or red. Having the fear that the project performance will be reflected as project manager’s personal performance issue, the PM keeps releasing weekly reports with all greens, showing the project is on track and ignoring or hiding the real issues.
This creates curiosity which reveals major issues that were derailing the project but were avoided to be reported to the management for selfish concerns. Just like cutting a watermelon, while reviewing reports from management viewpoint, you might have to apply some force to expose out the real problems. And in such instances, once you are inside from the outer covering you start seeing the true color ‘Red’.
As a Project Manager, it is important that you take all the steps to avoid this kind of reporting. When issues are discovered earlier and are highlighted to the appropriate stakeholders, they have a better chance of prompt resolutions. Risk which are controlled can turn in to opportunities providing a positive impact to the project. Project performance should not be considered as the project managers’ performance.
This needs the senior management to know that its important to inculcate the habit of honesty, openness and transparency in the team. The Management team who is reviewing needs to ensure, honesty is not penalized but motivated and may be rewarded to start a culture of honest reporting which can be believed in without any doubts.