Our projects are the sum total of all the decisions we’ve made – budget decisions, schedule decisions, scope decisions, requirements, selection of team members, and the list goes on. My goal today is to help you make better project decisions. Here’s why – project managers and teams who make better decisions improve their chance for success.
Think about how hard it is for you to make decisions alone. You turn on the televisions to watch a movie. How many choices do you have? What happens when we add another person to the mix?
Let's make things even more interesting – imagine a project team of eight people. The team members have different backgrounds, work experiences, expertise, and motives. Now decision making is exponentially more complex.
When project teams fail to make good decisions, it can be costly. Poor decisions give rise to rework resulting in missed deadlines, higher costs, and adverse impacts on team morale.
And if this goes on repeatedly, it can adversely impact your project management career. Someone else gets the good projects and the promotions.
So, how can project managers make better project decisions? Let's dive into these three simple, but powerful steps.
- Plan for better decisions
- Identify and capture your decisions
- Evaluate your decisions
1. Plan for Better Decisions
During the planning process, project managers create plans such as schedule management plans, budget plans, and requirement plans. As you plan for the future, give consideration to the key decisions that must be made.
In the early part of each project, project managers may ask the project sponsor and team members:
- What are the most significant decisions that must be made in the course of this project?
- When should the decisions be made?
- Who should make each decision?
- How should the decisions be made?
Some project managers create and use a decision register or log in their projects. This approach is much better than keeping decisions in emails and minutes. If you know the important questions early in your projects, you may pre-fill the register with these questions and identify the decisions makers.
2. Identify and Capture Your Decisions
How many times have you heard someone make a significant project decision but no one summarized and captured it? Later in the project, someone challenged the decision. Questions surfaced: Who made the decision? Did the decision maker have the authority to make the decision? What data or information was used to make the decision?
Wise project managers have their antenna up, listening for important decisions. Once the decisions are made, validate and capture the decisions.
3. Evaluate Your Decisions
John, a project manager, has a habit of reviewing his decision register with his team periodically. He asks the following questions:
- Are all the significant decisions captured in the register?
- Have new decisions been made that need to be captured? If so, what are they?
- Are the same decisions popping up over and over?
If you find several decisions surfacing repeatedly, there are likely deeper issues. It's time to analyze what is causing the decisions to resurface? Lack of information. Insufficient participation of key stakeholders. Poor analysis.
"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." –Albert Einstein
Once the root causes are identified, change your habits – improve your decision process for future decisions.
Decision makers make decisions based on the information at hand. The decision may be the right decision based on what is known at a given point in time. As you and your teams gain additional information, you may find it necessary to modify the decisions.
How About You?
Are poor decisions causing you and your project teams headaches? If so, plan for your decisions, identify and capture key decisions in a decision register, and periodically evaluate your decisions. You can download my FREE decision register template here.
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"Intelligent leadership, creative communication and depth of technical skill all describe Harry Hall." –John Bartuska, Director of HR–ONUG Communications