Decision Making – Key Factors

Making decisions is one of the most important attributes of the project manager’s day-to-day duties. From the more trivial to the complex, situations arise continuously that will require the project manager to be the ultimate arbitrator.

Of course, making decisions is by no means a unique circumstance for project managers. We all make decisions daily that affect the outcome of our lives in trivial or more profound ways. Generally speaking, the more trivial decisions (what will I eat today, what will I wear) garner a smaller proportion of our waking lifetime. While larger scale decisions (which university will I attend, what car should I buy) generally involve far more scrutiny and analysis.

Now despite the important nature of decision making, most organizations do not have any type of decision making ‘best practices’ within their corporate arsenals. Decisions are generally left up to whomever and the methodology that goes about to derive the final decision is often haphazard and ambigious.

So from the standpoint of the project manager (and other management types), what is a good and workable decision making process that can be leveraged for general usage? What attributes should this process possess?

1. Identify the Key Decision Makers

While the project manager may be the ‘de facto’ decision maker when it comes to the main aspects of the project, there are several other individuals that may also be involved. The project stakeholders and more importantly, the sponsor, may also be individuals that may be required to act as decision makers in certain situations. What’s important is that these individuals are identified early in the project life-cycle. Additionally, there may be senior members of the team, such as architects or high level engineers that can also be identified as key decision makers.

2. Determine What Type of Decisions Can Be Made by Specific Individuals

Once the main decision makers are identified, it is important to get an idea of what decisions should be made by whom. So for example, a technical decision may involve the chief engineer while a scheduling decision may be performed by the project manager. Changes in scope may need to be performed by committee while budgetary approvals may need to be performed by the sponsor. Knowing who should be the primary decision maker for specific aspects of the project will make things easier as the project moves forward.

3. Create a Common Decision Making Process

As alluded to earlier, decisions occur regularly but the process by which decisions are made is not always uniform or well defined. As such, it is important to at least have some high level process in place that allows for decisions to be made in some consistent format. This could be as simple as the discussion item being stated, the options evaluated and the final decision being shared. Following some key format will allow individuals on the team to become familiar with a certain level of consistency in the decisions themselves as they are performed.

4. Monitor the Outcome of Key Decisions

For thoroughness sake, it is important to also monitor the outcome of decisions. Not for any reasons of scrutiny, but merely to see how they are progressing. In certain cases, decisions may need to be revisited because a new factor has emerged that needs further evaluation. Additionally, changes to scope or team membership of the project can alter key decisions made earlier that now also need re-evaluation. And naturally, when one makes a decision, one is likely going to want to see it come to fruition to ensure things progressed smoothly.

In the end, decision making is a staple aspect of anyone’s daily duties, including the project manager. Understanding the process by which decisions are formed and having decision makers identified will be beneficial to the overall project health.


About tomtsongas
Versatile Program/Development Manager with 20 years of diverse background and experience in managing, defining, designing, developing and evangelizing advanced software applications that exceed customer expectations Current responsibilities include: - Coordinating and monitoring the scheduling and technical performance of company programs - Preparation of proposals, plans, specifications, and finalized requirements of various projects - Researching new opportunities and technologies - Ensuring adherence to master plans and schedules - Developing solutions to program problems - Directing work of incumbents assigned to program from various departments while also ensuring projects are completed on time and within budget - Acting as adviser to program teams regarding projects, tasks, and operations.

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