While managing projects, we try all sorts of techniques or methodologies to manage them as best as possible. One “idea” amongst many is to trick your team by feeding them false information to stay on budget or on schedule. For example, you will tell your team the deliverable is for the 15th when it’s actually for the 22nd, so they will work under pressure, or do overtime, and you know you have a week of buffer.
While it can sometimes work, here are several reasons it shouldn’t become your way of managing your projects:
1. You will get caught
It may work at first to trick your colleagues, but they will eventually catch on.
For example, you are probably going to need some of them to estimate your project. Those resources will than have an idea of the budget (or part of it), which means that if they question the official amounts that you give them, you will either have to explain why you’re using false numbers and hope they don’t talk, or you will have to use additional lies to trick them. Either way, your trick will stop working with them, and the others will simply find out sooner or later.
What happens then? Your colleagues won’t trust you anymore. Either they will confront you or what may happen is that they will stop taking your budget/schedule seriously and you will have a hard time managing your team.
2. Wastes time
Managing budgets and schedules can be time-consuming, especially if there are a lot of changes in the project. So imagine if you have to double that time since you also have to maintain a false budget/schedule!
Furthermore, if you are using a software to manage budgets/schedules, then you will be able to enter one budget or one schedule per project, and if the team can have access to the data, that means you have to use the false one, leaving you to use other means to manage your real data, which will waste even more time.
3. Creates confusion
If you use trickery a lot, chances are you are becoming good at it. Nevertheless, at some point, you will probably confuse your fake numbers with your real ones. That confusion could have a serious impact on your project.
For example, if you mix up the real budget with the false, you may think you have less money available than you think, forcing you to make horrible decisions to manage project changes, resulting in your client’s unhappiness.
4. Adds stress
If you use pressure created by false schedules, you inevitably add stress to your team. I will not go into details of the negative impact stress can have on efficiency, but to sum it up: it’s not good!
A little stress here and there can have a positive effect on productivity, but if you constantly stress out your team, they will leave, or stop working properly. Not to mention the anger that can be created.
5. Reduces project quality
There are two sides to this point:
- The first one is concerning stress by using a false tighter schedule (previous point): the negative impact the stress creates on your team’ effectiveness will result in poor quality work overall, and it will worsen with time; and
- If you feed false budgets: your colleagues will try to stay on budget by using smaller amounts than they should. The result will be that they will take minor or major decisions along the way to “cut corners“, obviously reducing the quality of your project.
6. Chain effect
When trickery is used by more than one person, this can amplify the false data and multiply the negative impact.
Here is an example that I witnessed: A project was recently added about 30h worth of budget for maintenance to execute a series of small tasks. The account manager told the project manager the team had about 20h. The project manager, who thought 20h was the real data, used the same trickery with the team, telling them they had about 15h to do the work. The team immediately told him they wouldn’t have enough time. The project manager had to go back to the account manager and tell him that, and that’s when they all had to tell one another they were sharing false data, and they actually had 30h. The project manager then told the team they magically had twice the time all of a sudden…imagine the look on their faces!
What a mess…
If you want to build a solid team based on trust, than trickery is not the way to go. Unfortunately, I’ve seen many use those “techniques”, pretending it works. To some extend, it does work, but it’s not worth it in the end if you take everything into account (resources leaving, lack of trust in the workplace, lying and deceiving, etc.).
To each his own way of managing project; what do you prefer, honesty or trickery?