The Customer Communication Conflict

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting Inc., an Ontario, Canada-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at andy.jordan@roffensian.com. Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

“Okay, so this doesn’t go any further than this room, but here’s what we are going to tell the users...”

We’ve all been there in some form or other—a project or service is nearing the delivery date and the pressure is on to release it. However, it still has problems—not all the bugs have been resolved, the performance is not what it should be, some of the features are not quite as requested and then there are a few additional “undocumented” features. The decision is taken to release anyway because the schedule is important, but there’s going to be some creative communications to the user group about what is being delivered.

Let’s assume this is an internal customer group, and let’s assume this is a situation where the message is being “carefully positioned”—rather than outright lies being told (because that would get us into all kinds of ethical conversations that aren’t necessarily appropriate for a workforce management-themed piece). What are the responsibilities and expectations of team members in this situation? Are they expected to support the official position, are they free to offer their opinions to user groups if asked, or should they simply refer any questions to the sponsor, project manager or similar?

Some people will tell you those are difficult questions to …

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