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Eliminating “Honesty Buffers” helps to confront your organizational project management bad habits and hence improve your productivity and quality.   Here are nine techniques I’ve used to successfully reduce the “Honesty Buffers.”

In Eliminate Your Project Management Honesty Buffers I talk about how you can apply lean techniques from the The Toyota Way to eliminate the “Honesty Buffers” in project management.   One of my comments was “Making the change to brutal honesty often requires the most senior managers to take the first step.”  Sure, if you are a senior manager, your actions will have a bit more impact on the organization than someone who is not.  However, many of the best  changes in an organization start with individuals without lofty titles and formal power.

Here are nine techniques I’ve used to successfully reduce the “Honesty Buffers”:

  1. Be as data driven as possible. Do the research. Show the evidence. The data/evidence shows the brutal facts.
  2. Put your data up for consideration and critique. Realize that the first time folks hear the brutal honesty, your progress may be limited to warming them up to the idea, not immediately convincing them.
  3. Persevere with credibility. Often it is your credibility that sells the idea uncovered by brutal honesty, not just your data.  A lot of people will often offer all sorts of competing data – some of which will not be as rigorous and as fact based as your own.   Sometimes you just have to keep repeating what you know to be true,  even in the face of opposition that is not as accurate.
  4. Persevere with time. Change takes time. The more radical the notion you are exposing, generally the longer it will take to grab hold.
  5. Start small. Be brutally honest in smaller, less critical, situations first.
  6. Push the notion the brutal honesty is uncovering, not the brutal honesty itself. Once we have a success, highlight how being brutally honest helped us do a better job in one area, then do it again.
  7. Cultivate like minded colleagues. Find others who work on the more honest/objective side of the equation.  Publicly encourage and support their positions where they are being more honest and open then the norm. “Hey, that is a good idea.”  “We hadn’t thought of that.  Let’s give that a try.”
  8. Show excitement.  Be excited about fanatical clarity (i.e., brutal honesty) but not emotional about it. Don’t take rejection or criticism personally, at least don’t show it.  Excitement can be infectious and capture people’s attention.  Don’t overdue excitement.  The right amount puts the attention on the issue exposed, not on the presenter.
  9. Plant the idea and nurture its growth.   Plant the idea in a C level (or someone who has a C level’s ear) and support them if they bring it up.  You may have to do all the work, while they may get the bulk of the credit if it is successful. I had one senior VP describe me as his “honest broker.” I allowed him to intervene into sensitive bad habits of the organization because I kept speaking up about them.

Reducing or eliminating “honesty buffers” will often expose organizational bad habits (e. g., the status report that is always positive).   Be data driven in your reporting and persevere with grace when facing resistance to showing the brutal facts.  All change takes time,  and people have to warm up to the idea that it is now OK to just state the facts, with brutal honesty.  (For more techniques see using hard facts to reduce project management tool honesty buffers.)

Thank you for sharing!

3 thoughts on “Nine Ways To Eliminate Honesty Buffers

  1. Thank you for your series on Honest Buffers. I’ve enjoyed the posts. Your posts reminded me of one of my favorite proverbs: In God we trust, everyone else bring data.

    1. Bruce Benson says:


      In the intelligence service, we had a similar saying.

      “In God we trust, all others we monitor.”

      Thank you,


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