Problem Management — failure
Management by Faith

Man: Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.
Jesus: If I can? All things are possible to him that believes.
— Mark 9:22-23

If you keep on believing, the dreams that you wish will come true.
— Walt Disney

Management by Faith is a very effective technique for Management under a limited term of office. It is not a technique one should want to follow though.

Management can set specific goals for possibly interrelated projects, telling each project leader to assume that all the others will be completed. This often simplifies every project.

Knowing that we will not be be providing or making use of some specific service as of a certain date means that there is no need to worry about how that service relates to the current project. (E.g. as of June next year, all our systems will be running Linux, so there is no need to waste time taking our current Solaris systems into consideration when designing the project.)

If done realistically, this can work well, but the type of Management that uses this technique is very often not realistic.

Some goals are much more difficult to achieve than others. The goal itself might be very simple, but the implications of achieving it might be very complicated.

If there are only a few such projects, they are easy to hide among the others, especially if Management treats them with equal importance and urgency as the others. Or in extreme cases, such projects never even get explicitly assigned.

Weekly reports on projects will all be favourable. Much of this is because having faith that the others will happen on time really does make the project go well, But for others, the report has to be favourable simply to avoid upsetting management.

Management doesn't ever want to hear anything negative about its goals. With sufficient faith, anything can be accomplished, but if certain people insist on pointing out negative things, or questioning how reasonable the time estimates are, that just demonstrates a lack of faith, a lack of faith that might very well prevent success. Such people are not welcome in this kind of environment.

So people learn to speak in vague generalities and give optimistic reports. (We're well on our way [we handled all the easy cases]; only a handful more to do [but we've no idea how].)

If things actually do work out okay, Management can celebrate its success before it leaves.

And if things don't work out okay, Management can pass control to the successors, being able to point to their impressive projects, and truthfully saying that they are almost all close to being finished. The few exceptions are behind time, and that is mostly because of the negative impact of a few employees that spent too much time criticizing.

The old Management will be sent off with praise and long gone by the time that the new Management starts to discover what a mess they have inherited: a few projects that are obviously impossible to complete, either because they were unrealistic in the first place, or because they would be excessively expensive and time consuming to complete; and a large number of projects that appear wonderful, but which won't work unless the other projects are also completed.

The biblical quotation above is almost always taken out of context and shortened to With faith, all things are possible.. But unless one lives in Fantasyland, it becomes as ridiculous as Disney's saying. The unfortunate thing is that many people aren't using Management by Faith as a Machiavellian process, but do have a sincere belief in what they are doing. They really do live in Fantasyland.