The Pitfalls Of Project Transparency

Transparency: it’s what every stakeholder wants and what every PMP® strives to provide. But for all the benefits that come from improved productivity, PMP®s are often surprised to find there are challenges lurking behind those good intentions. Some of the hurdles sap productivity while others have the ability to hamper the relationships between the project team and end users, sponsors, external business partners, and the organization’s leadership group.


Before your project teams begins to wonder if their transparency efforts are falling short, see if you’re encountering any of these common pitfalls.


The project team is a target no matter what. Part of the transparency pledge means allowing stakeholders to see the inner workings of the Project Team and the projects it executes. Sometimes that kind of inside access reveals information that makes stakeholders unhappy, such as when resources are allocated in a way that doesn’t benefit their specific group. Even when the logic behind a decision is laid out for all to see, there may be those who still disagree with how things are handled. Unfortunately, this means the Project Team sometimes continues to be a target for stakeholders’ frustrations and concerns no matter how transparently the team’s activities and operations are managed.


PMP®s will need to spend more time answering questions. Though one goal of providing more information is to reduce confusion and build trust, it’s not uncommon to discover that stakeholders actually have more—not fewer—questions. Rather than wondering how the decision-making process is structured, for example, end users and sponsors may now question how that process came into being and how it can be changed. The number of questions coming into the Project Team may decrease as stakeholders become more familiar with normal operations, but the team should be ready to continue addressing concerns and requests for additional information as new projects enter the pipeline and new stakeholders are exposed to the project management process.


Managing project communications takes longer. Transparency brings with it an increased need for robust communication channels. Project Teams must work harder to start conversations with stakeholders and others involved in the project. It’s also important that the team follows up by encouraging participants to provide feedback. This level of communication requires a concerted effort by everyone in the Project Team, not only to maintain good stakeholder connections but also to ensure that questions are routed to the appropriate people, that answers are broadcast to those who are interested, that new data is distributed in a timely manner, and that any changes in the stakeholder groups—people entering or leaving the organization as well as vendors coming on board and exiting from the project—are incorporated into the master communication lists. Technology tools can take much of the burden off the project team when it comes to managing these many connections, but human oversight remains the foundation of any good communication program.


A company’s drive for success is sometimes at odds with transparency efforts. Every now and then, there are aspects of organizational maneuvering that fall into direct conflict with the project team’s drive to operate in a transparent manner. Strategic planning and other forward-looking initiatives must often be done away from the public eye, and sometimes away from employees’ and business partners’ eyes as well. Factors behind the decisions made—including those that affect project scope and resource allocation—can’t always be disclosed. It’s a practice that may be reasonable and sound, but it’s still at odds with true transparency. Balancing the Project Team’s commitment to transparency with the company’s need to maintain a competitive edge and ensure sustainability sometimes presents real challenges for the project team.


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