Silence can be really loud when there is a problem

Published: Friday, April 1, 2016

There was no update in the last 2 weeks. Just silence, crickets, and an occasional rumor that something was amiss.

At the monthly business review, Jack was informed by the development team that the feature they were working on was delayed. Sara was ill, a production bug took twice as long to fix as anticipated, and they had just received the comps a week late. In addition, the Program Manager didn’t update the status last week appropriately that was shared out to the team. A new deadline wasn’t given.

There were two other teams that are depending on this feature and it is Jack’s responsibility to relay the news. This communication usually happens in a bi-monthly sync (or fortnightly as some of my friends would say). Jack decided to wait until the following meeting, 1 1/2 weeks away to deliver the news. You can imagine the outcome.

Jack’s intent was:

  1. Work with the PM and dev team to see if they could push something out and change resourcing to get back on track with that feature.
  2. Figure out what could be delivered and cut out of the feature to mitigate with the business.
  3. Keep the status green until this could all be figured out.

In reality:

  1. Jack jeopardized more than his own project by not speaking up
  2. Trust was lost because of inaccurate reporting.
  3. By hiding the true status, Jack couldn’t get the help needed from others that depended on the feature.

This is a common occurrence in a lot of projects today. When you look at the reasons why the feature was late, they are all legitimate, except for maybe the comps being late. However, if that status of the comps was set to red when that deadline was missed, the schedule could have been adjusted to accommodate the slippage anyways.

Communicate more than you think you should

You very rarely hear of a situation where people tell you to not communicate as much. It may be as simple as a note saying you changed the project plan to reflect new dates due to someone having to take time off, or an email stating the impact of a bug fix against the project plan. These are not part of your standard status reports. It is ok to repeat the information when the formal status is due. When you are silent and working behind the scenes the risks increase exponentially.


Don’t be silent in your communications!