Facilitating the Spread of Knowledge and Innovation in Professional Software Development

Write for InfoQ


Choose your language

InfoQ Homepage News Is Project Status Relative?

Is Project Status Relative?

Inveterate watchers of PBS documentaries will already know as a star moves away from an observer, its colour does a "red-shift", and while moving toward the observer a "blue-shift" occurs.  Project watchers will be equally aware of the phenomenon Scott Ambler is calling the "green shift" which occurs when people rework the information contained in status reports to make them more politically palatable to their manager.

It would be funny if it didn't cause so much consternation: the idea is that project status will increasingly "green shift", e.g. improve, the more political filters that it goes through.  For example, I tell my manager that the project status is red, he tells his manager that it's yellow, and she tells her manager that things are going perfectly fine.  Then a developer has a twilight-zone experience in which she runs into a senior exec in the elevator and receives warm accolades for some mysterious team "success" of which she knows absolutely nothing.  This certainly explains why some places discourage developers from talking to management, doesn't it? 

But can management handle the truth?  Can they afford not to?  Ambler proposes that green shifting is a significant contributor to project failure.  If senior management is unable to find out the true status of a project, then they will be unable to bring resources to bear to fix the problem(s) before it's too late.  Ambler looks at how Agile teams develop project status transparency with management, in his recent article "Green Shift Anti-Pattern" written for the Doctor Dobbs Journal newsletter. 

Rate this Article