Why Program Managers do NOT raise red-flags on time
Ever noticed that when Program Managers raise a red-flag it is already too late to fix the situation? Why do you think that is? Poor Estimates of Course! But even when a team/individual is under-performing there is often some reluctance from the PM to bring that it to the attention of management.
Reason1: Poor Estimates.
Garbage-in, garbage-out. A goal without an action-plan is just a wish-list. The
art science of estimation can fill an entire book. Not estimating a project bottom-up from the beginning is a huge risk.
Reason2: Sunk-Cost fallacy
A typical PM’s though process – The team has already spent a few days/weeks on this, maybe one day more and they will be done; and then we can worry about getting back on track. After all, how hard can it be?…
Reason3: Endowment Effect
Endowment effect refers to the cognitive dissonance that makes one look favorably upon one’s belongings or one’s own endeavors. Most commonly exploited by the myriad try-before-you-buy sales. Their aim? get the product into the hands of potential owners so that potential-owners form favorable opinions of the product all by themselves. PM’s are most vulnerable to a similar effect when they look upon the program as their brain-child. It is almost impossible for a PM to accept it early-on when the best-laid plans begin to go awry.
Reason4: Self Evaluation
At the end of the day, a PM is evaluated on the timely delivery of product. It is natural that a PM looks at a slipping schedule as an imminent failure of his ability to run the program. In a competitive environment, it is natural that a PM would try his best to avoid a black-spot on himself. Unless a open and accepting culture is cultivated by the management, naturally PMs will make every attempt to delay the inevitable and avoid emphasizing a slip in the schedule early-on.
Install an early-warning system in place. This could be a modular, granular planning and time-tracking tool like JIRA.
An quicker alternative is to switch the reporting/mental model of the PMs. In this alternative reporting model:
Each project is assumed to be in RED by default. Until proven otherwise, a project is assumed to be slipping schedule and heading towards a cost/time over-run.
To lower the escalation, periodically the PM is tasked with presenting the information of the program planning and execution. If the PM can share a project-plan with effort-estimates and demonstrate that the work so far has been carried out according to their respective initial estimates, then the escalation can be lowered from RED to a YELLOW.
A program can be designated the GREEN status ONLY if the above project-plan is very detailed and also contains the list of pending actions with their respective effort-estimates all the way to the conclusion of the program. A PM who can provide such evidence surely deserves the right to GREEN-flag his program.