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Topics: Ethics, Leadership, Risk Management
Obfuscationalism
Have you ever seen “Obfuscationalism” (i.e., the practice of making something obscure or unclear) used in or around your projects? What should a project manager do when they suspect or have confirmed such actions – does context matter to the ethics of the situation?

An example of obfuscation would be the following: A project has mixed results, having success on a few minor objectives, but failure on the more substantive ones. Management decides to hyperbolize and exaggerate the minor objectives, in an effort to distract attention from failure on the major objectives. Obfuscation, for some, is considered an art form, but what is it for us?
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Dear George
Interesting your question
Thanks for sharing

In the situation you described: "Management decides to hyperbolize and exaggerate the minor objectives", occurred to me:

On the one hand:
I would call it "covering the sun with the sieve"

I would say "the truth is like olive oil, it always comes up"

On the other hand:
You reminded me of the story "The King Goes Naked" or "The Emperor's New Clothes"
George -

Obfuscation happens in all shapes and sizes on projects - "watermelon" status reporting is one example of this.

In general, we need to be transparent, accurate and complete in providing information about the project to our key stakeholders. We can't control what they will do with it, but we should hopefully be able to influence them to act on it in a manner similar to what we would.

Kiron
In my area Obfuscation is a way to protect the source code of software, is a standard practice.
Regarding to project management obfuscation failures, dissimulating results, exacerbating poor results is a very serious ethical issue.
But this is like a watermelon, green on the outside and red on the inside as soon as it breaks the truth begins to be discovered. Any project manager that has verified evidences of such schemes should eventually report to hierarquical superiors or as last resort to the PMI Ethics Review Committee.

Truth, transparency, honesty, integrity and professionalism should govern the actions of any project manager, obfuscation for me in this area or in other professional area is a deception and a scam.
I think this is the personification of the government, but not always intentional. Our 400 plus page Project Approval Directive comes to mind which is actually an improvement on the previous version.
If you can't convince them, then confuse them. Basic rule.
I do agree with Kiron and Sergio.
It happens in different forms
Section 5.3.1 of the PMI-CoE states the following:

- “We do not engage in or condone behavior that is designed to deceive others, including but not limited to, making misleading or false statements, stating half-truths, providing information out of context or withholding information that, if known, would render our statements as misleading or incomplete.

Scenario: Let’s say that your last project was deemed a success (from a corporate political perspective), but MISSED 60% of its objectives. One month later, as part of an application for a new position, you are asked to fill out an online form that requests basic information on your last three projects. One of the columns has a dropdown called “success/failure,” and you are forced to enter a value with no ability to provide context.

Question: Would a PMI-CoE bound individual be in violation under any of the following criteria of Section 5.3.1: [A] Misleading, [B] False Statement, [C] Half-Truth, or [D] Out of Context Information, if they chose “Success.”

Although this exact scenario is not likely to happen, the principal concern of the scenario is likely to come up at some point in the interview process. What are your thoughts on this obfuscation concern?
99.99% is also not success when you are evaluating objectively. Here with 60% missed objectives, we must mark as failure.

Or if the stakeholders have realigned the project objectives during the course of the project we may have a different answer.

Yes, with 60% missed objectives its "Misleading" / "Half truth" if you select "Success"
It is the first time I hear of this term and while I can't weigh it, I had to tell you George, I just learned something new so thanks for bringing this subject up.

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