Does top management always know the status of projects? : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

For quite a few years, I was involved with providing project management consultation to large software projects in a major aerospace company. I learned that most programmers are basically optimists, and have a tendency to not report difficulties they are encountering, particularly if management has a tendency to respond to bad news in a punitive manner instead of in a manner of trying to help the team overcome the problem. (Actually, having been a programmer myself and written lots of 2-digit year code, I already knew that programmers are optimists). Similarly, project managers tend to put an optimistic spin on their reports going up the management chain. Thus when I hear reports from the top management of large organizations that their Y2k efforts are all on schedule, I am skeptical about their true knowledge of what is happening in the trenches and pits, since their information has invariably been filtered through multiple layers of reporting.

Are there forum participants or lurkers out there who have knowledge in their organization that the story coming from the top is more optimistic than the view from the bottom would warrant? <<<<<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>

-- Dan Hunt (, September 18, 1998


Shoot, when it comes to Y2K remediation, lying at all levels seems to flourish. The GAO has caught govt agencies doing this numerous times; see for their testimony before congress. Also see the recent INFOTECH (New Zealand) article Of course, lying about the status of projects has been done as long as there have been projects; the penalty is more time and money get allocated when the truth is discovered (and maybe a few people get in trouble). With Y2K, when the time is up, the game is over (and we are all in trouble).

-- Joe (, September 18, 1998.

In my company, even though we have less than 300 employees, the top managers have a history of ingnorance. I don't say this just because I'm not a manager, either. They just never seem to know what people are REALLY doing.

The company president said to me the other day "I think we need some kind of software for this Year 2000 problem with our PCs. Have you figured out how to fix that yet?" I said "Did you read my email and the attached memo?" He said "Well I know you sent me something about working on everybody's PC, and it would take you 15 or 20 minutes." I said "I"m fixing it."

(The email and memo were a detailed description of the possible effects of Y2K on PC hardware and software, along with my plan for inventory, assessment and repair/upgrade/retirement.)

I wonder what he thinks he's paying me for.

-- Mike (, September 18, 1998.

Sounds to me like he gave you verbal permission and a budget to upgrade all the PC's, repair the ones that are broken, spend all the overtime you like, buy all the spare parts and pieces you feel like, and then retire.

I'd take him up on it, and make sure that everybody else in the office pays you (bribes you) to get a faster CPU and good laptop.

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw, GA) (, September 18, 1998.

I've worked for a good number of companies, in the tobacco and automotive industries, and my experience has been that many upper-level managers don't know a database from a screensaver, much less how to remediate Y2K problems, or what's involved.

My favorite story is from when I was the assistant head of receiving at a local tobacco processing company. One year they decided to start having a good deal of the receiving inventory data input done on a networked PC back in the receiving office. My boss, Willie, the receiving head, knew basic word processing, but that was about it. I knew more about computers than anyone in the company, except for the front-office girl who was the "guru". The receiving inventory software was a proprietary program written by the MIS department at corporate HQ in Danville, VA.

Well, I helped Willie learn the inventory software, and how to input data. Everything went along fine until the 2nd week, when about a third of the data disappeared. I stayed late that day, and reinput everything from scratch, from hard-copy records (very painstaking and time-consuming work). A week later, another partial data loss. Reinput everything again. I told the front office girl I thought the software had a glitch.

Well, the plant manager came back to receiving the next day, called me into Willie's office, and asked what the trouble was with the computer. I told him my thoughts about a software glitch. His response was, "Don't you touch that computer any more. Let Willie do it." I was floored! With no investigation on his part whatsoever, he thought that I had screwed it up.

About a week later, Karen the guru girl told me the Danville people had discovered a glitch in the inventory program, and had sent an updated version down here. I told her what the plant manager had done, and she said, "What a dummy!"

Did I work with that dang computer any more after that? Not on your life! They couldn't have paid me enough.

-- John Howard, Greenville, NC (, September 18, 1998.


One problem with my boss. He sits on his wallet and says things like "What's a see-pee-you?"

-- Mike (, September 18, 1998.

To John Howard - been there, done that. You have my heartfelt sympathy. Most bosses are complete computer illiterates.

-- Paul Davis (, September 19, 1998.

My experience with a non Y2K project a number of years ago might just be enlightening here (or perhaps we should spell that f-r-i-g-h-t-e-n-i-n-g)

Set Stage major project integrating a package written by another office of the loose (well actually VERY tight) consortium of companies sharing a name and logo to our needs. Multiple re-plan efforts (I think I saw 3) Final re-plan effort with a drop dead date and the expectation of completion of an 80,000 man hour project in 11 months. this plan gets bought by top Management Critical milestone at 4 months 2 weeks before milestone date, the worker bees are all aware that the project has incurred a "negative variance" (LOVE the term!) of about 5.5 weeks Status reports have reflected this for about 2 months and have had serious concerns reported to the project leaders. I make an appointment to see the Executive VP with project responsibility, and then cancel this appointment when my manager asks me the subject of the requested meeting Major meeting occurs on Wednesday, and teh senior management of the corporation is made aware of the variance, delay, etc. to the relief of the worker bees Saturday, company picnic and teh Ex VP comes to me and a friend from the department, asks about the aborted meting and my FRIEND, tells him that there were serious differences between the lower level status reports turned in by us team leaders and the top mgt overviews that he had received.

Monday, my manager calls me in and says I was identified among other unnamed members of the department who told JK that "Project managers been lying to top mgt." and the managers had been tasked with comparing the status reports and their reports and show the variances between the two groups. Curiously enough, there were none discovered. 97 days later, after putting me in a technical job which they were FULLY AWARE I wasn't able to do well, and running me through the "Problem Solving" suystem, in which all of the written reports I received were neutral, but were accompanied by positive verbal feedback, my supervisor was called into work on the afternoon before he and his fiance were to leave to pick up his new BMW and tour Europe with the BMW bike Club, so as to terminate me. I have not worked in the field in 15 years.

Do I think top management is aware of the true state of affairs in the Y2K arena?????? NO!!!

1) Managers are unwilling to report negative variances because it would be construed as as failure to do their job 2) Project leaders are encouraged by teh managers to be extremely careful how the status reports are written. 3) Ass in the grass troops are VERY AWARE of the lack of tenure implied in going over anyone's head.

4) Top Management refuses to ask questions which might amplify a problem. Any top manager who asks how far along the project is, and gets "60%" simply does not want to know any more. The BOARD may ask serious questions but they will be unsuccessful in gaining real information.

"I'm glad you asked that, that's a very good, important question. Next?"

Please try to read past the misspellings. I usually run a spell checker because my fingers are just a tad wider than the usual landing point on the keyboards and I'm not exactly a "no-looking-touch typist".


-- Chuck a Night Driver (, September 19, 1998.

Thank you all! There are a few times when I question being self-employed, then I read stories like these. I have never worked in the dog eat dog corporate world, always knew that it wouldn't suit my personality, thanks for reminding me that I made a wise choice.

-- Uncle Deedah (, September 19, 1998.

Does top management know the status of projects? NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS. All they want is an overview, they don't have time for details. And they'll get a well-scrubbed and polished version of the good news about a project. Bad news is VERBOTEN! My views go back to 1987, when as a GI I was part of a test team on a new, large computer system. We tried the Y2K roll-over and it died. Despite having Y2K considered in the software design. Did the failure get reported up the chain? NOT HARDLY! It wasn't "politically expedient" or "politically correct" (first time I ever heard that miserable phrase) to report that your new big bucks project worked well today but wouldn't in thirteen years. Besides, no one working on that project would be working there in 2000. So it wasn't our place to worry about that problem. HONEST! That's what our mid-level managers told us! I imagine that same line of thinking has gone on ever since in every place that the Y2K bad news has appeared. I only hope that those useless people who roadblocked the facts between the technical folks and the senior management level are the people who are fatally trapped in traffic jams, trying too late to escape their urban Titanics.

-- Vern Moore (, September 19, 1998.

Bet that "GI" tested program still isn't changed. I wonder what it does?

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw, GA) (, September 20, 1998.

Hehehe. in my experience, management hardly ever knows a damn thing. Ask the guys on the line. Whether its an auto plant, a cotton mill, or bank.

-- Seeker Six (, September 25, 1998.

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