Recently I was sat in a project board meeting. We were covering milestone completion and progress more broadly, before normal governance filtered our reports up to portfolio and more senior management. I heard a comment that really took me by surprise; in response to discussion around risk to a milestone completion “… just mark it green, always be green”. It took me a moment to recover from the sharp intake of breath I experienced, but once I did I began to think, what could have caused the senior PM to respond so brazenly and how could this potentially dangerous attitude be altered for the better?
Firstly, let’s briefly explore the symptoms of this attitude. By no means was this an isolated incident, I have experienced numerous project and programme meetings where the true status of progress had been masked by a ‘sea of green’, with battle scarred PMs and PMO leads returning from Programme Boards stern faced and short tempered having received a grilling from senior management over non green items.
It’s not difficult to see why this behaviour is occurring. No one likes to be interrogated in front of their peers, never mind in front of their management and seniors. I know I don’t enjoy having my inadequacies laid bare and hard work pulled to pieces. However, it’s not only this innate human characteristic which can be the cause. Workplace politics can play a part, both within programmes and between individuals. Career hungry employees ‘playing the career game’ looking to portray competence can be the cause, and I’ve also experienced a simple lack of willingness to follow risk management process as a reason a milestone was marked as green when amber at least was more appropriate.
So, in this world of AI and predictive analytics, where data can be used to measure just about every facet of change, how should organisations look to prevent that senior PMs behaviour and keep my respiratory rate at normal levels?
This is where senior leadership need to step in and change the culture of the programme.