Journal of Management Information Systems

Volume 18 Number 2 2001 pp. 189-227

Keeping Mum as the Project Goes Under: Toward an Explanatory Model

Smith, H Jeff, Keil, Mark, and Depledge, Gordon

ABSTRACT: The problem of "runaway" information systems (IS) projects can be exacerbated by the reluctance of organizational members to transmit negative information concerning a project and its status. Drawing upon relevant bodies of literature, this paper presents a model of the reluctance to report negative project news and develops hypotheses to be tested. An experiment, which was designed to test these hypotheses for both internal and external reporting alternatives, is then described. Two factors are manipulated: (1) the level of impact associated with project failure should an individual fail to report negative information, and (2) the level of observed behavioral wrongdoing associated with the project. The results explain a significant portion of the variance in the reluctance to report negative information and suggest that some differences in internal and external reporting behavior. Implications for research and practice are discussed.

Key words and phrases: information system development, mum effect, project management, whistle-blowing