Fake Affordances

Let’s talk today about Fake Affordances pattern described as:

Is there anything to be gained from making something look like it works one way, while actually doing something else (or nothing at all)?


Many elevator/lift ‘door close’ buttons are reputedly ‘placebo buttons’, giving an illusion of control but not speeding up the process.

This is the best ever defined management-under-stress technique. When the project has a high visibility, tough delivery schedule or high risks there is an extreme attention from stakeholders. Thus, you have to manage not only the internal delivery itself but external control over it. The same problem exists when delay or non-crucial fail happens. All stakeholders are trying say what to do and how to fix.

Frankly speaking, in most cases you know the reasons and actions required yourself. Each suggestion slows you down. Each external influence affects the team. Thus, feel free to accept any suggestions and promise corrective actions just to give feeling of control to your stakeholders. This will save you time and keep your team focused.

You can use it with boss of your boss as well. Sometimes it happens when a top manager is trying to micromanage. He might be wrong due to lack of information. However, due to his power you cannot say “No” or “Maybe”. He expects immediate action. Thus, give a fake promise if needed. He’ll get what he wants: a feeling of control. And you’ll avoid acting the wrong way. At least immediately.

Disclaimer: there are two issues with this pattern. First, you might me be wrong. Second, you might be considered as a liar. Both are disaster to you. Take care.

Inspired by: http://www.danlockton.com/dwi/Fake_affordances


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