“If you’re not gonna tell the truth, then why start talking?”– Gene Wilder
You are the project manager of Project Big. It is Friday afternoon. This is your project status:
Your team is behind schedule by two days.
Because the project is so critical and the deadline is the most important constraint, team members working on critical path activities have agreed to stay late tonight, and to work on BOTH Saturday and Sunday in order to get back on track.
Your sponsor just sent you a text asking for project status. Your sponsor does not know that the team is behind schedule by two days. She was out of the office for two weeks on an international vacation and is just returning. Everything was fine when she left. That will teach her to take a vacation!
You consider the following options:
- Tell her everything is fine because you feel confident that everything will be fine, why upset her? You are thinking that her text is just a check-in, to let you know that she has returned from her vacation and that she has not forgotten about the project. By the time she is really ready to pay attention, everything will be fine.
- Reply that you will schedule some catch-up time with her for Monday. Then on Monday you can have a project overview and status with her and let her know what has been happening. At that point, the team may have completed the required work and will be back on schedule, or they may not be back on schedule, but you can talk about how hard they worked all weekend. Of course you are secretly hoping they are back on schedule.
- Ignore her text until later in the weekend and then once you are back on track send her an update. Your thought process here is that in your corporate culture, a text is not considered to be a formal communication. In fact there have been times when you texted your sponsor and she did not reply for 24 hours. You feel justified in waiting. This will allow you to see how much is accomplished tonight and tomorrow. Your hope is that the team completes the planned amount of work and you can text her that all is going well.
- Tell her the truth about the status and the plan – right now we are off by two days, we are working the weekend to get back on track. Of course this makes for a long text. If texting is her preference you find a way to be concise yet reassuring. Otherwise you call her or send her a brief email.
What do YOU think, one of the above, none of the above? What would YOU do?