Sorry to tell you this, but the majority of management dashboards are far from the truth. This is especially true for project management.
This is how it works. No one wants to hear bad news, and the way it manifests itself is “give me bad news and I give you pain”! Don’t give me problems, give me solutions.
This is fine and I agree in principal, but the implication of this approach is,
many Dashboards are not a real reflection of the situation to avoid drama and escalation.
Things look nice and green, sometimes a little yellow, but overall not a real reflection of either the key activity, Issues or the real status of a project.
What’s the answer I hear you ask ?
It depends where you’re at. If its an existing project, get someone the team trust in the middle as a buffer, go back to the source, the statement of work and build the real truth from there. Make people feel safe to be transparent.
What was committed to the customer. Now look at the key milestones, do they really reflect what was committed at the outset, and honestly review the key milestones and the realistic delivery dates and any potential issues in the real world.
Now you have this baseline review the project plan, and see where you are against it and the real dates.
Now you have an honest appraisal of where you are, what the gaps are and the realistic dates that can be achieved.
If it’s a new project, recognise that the price of pain drives people to give you a massaged outlook.
By the way, this is not only present in project management. I was recently on a plane sitting next to an FD of an organsiation, who explained to me that the CEO he worked for always tells him, “I’ve never missed my targets in last 5 years, not planning on doing so now” What do you think his dashboard looks like ?
By the way this doesn’t mean we should be soft and not deal with the key issues that are present, I’m just suggesting you can create the right culture to be more transparent. It’s a bit like empowerment; people wont take it unless they feel safe to do so.
So the truth is, the rough and tumble of business life drives a certain behavior, but the great news is once you understand this, you can create an environment that gives your team the safety to be honest and realistic, so you can understand and deal with the real issues and be comfortable and confident that you are acting and making business decisions based on the real truth.