If there is one facet of project management that binds all other facets together it is communication. Without communication, both as a concept and as a set of actual activities, there will not be project management.
Communication is an activity where information is being transferred. It could be uni-directional, bi-directional or multi-directional but it is always about transfer of information. Communication is non-judgmental, i.e. it does not care whether the information being transmitted is of any value, whether it is correct, whether it is helpful. It is up to the recipient of the communication to evaluate the information being transmitted and respond with a communication where the information submitted provide that value judgement, or feedback.
Given the high volume of communication carried out as part of a project and given that a proportion (perhaps even a large proportion) of that communication is produced and delivered between humans, it is likely to be susceptible to pitfalls that would normally impact human communication.
One of these pitfalls I would like to focus on here is lying.
A number of research papers and studies published in recent years suggest that lying is prevalent. According to a 2006 research by Jennifer Argo of the University of Alberta, people are more willing to lie to coworkers than they are to strangers (See more at: http://www.livescience.com/772-lie.html#sthash.AF6vGcAP.dpuf). Also, according to a 2009 study conducted by University of Massachusetts researcher Robert Feldman, people tend to lie fairly frequently and at a higher rate than what they will be willing to admit (see more at http://curiosity.discovery.com/question/average-person-tell-lie and http://people.umass.edu/rfeldman/liar_in_life/conversation.html). And just to crystallize the point, see the November 2012 of the Success Magazine had an article titled “Liar, Liar, Pantsuit on Fire!” where a nation wide survey (in the US) concludes that lying is…everywhere.
When I began my research, I thought lies were rare, something uncommon and only occasionally found in daily life. When I discovered how often lies were used in everyday conversation—for instance, that two people getting acquainted lie an average of three times in ten minutes—I was stunned.
-Robert S. Feldman, Dean, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Professor of Psychology
So, here’s the question:
While we, as project managers, hold ourselves at high esteem, we are probably as culpable at lying as anyone else. In fact, I would argue, we would probably be more inclined to lie because our reputation is constantly on the line. Our performance is being continuously judged and scrutinized and thus the temptation to ‘smooth things up’ by modifying the truth will be high.
Despite this, though, can we make an absolute commitment to not lie. Can a project manager survive his or her job while being absolutely truthful? Can this actually work in practice?
Think about it!