Making Informed Project Decisions
- Project manager
When making a decision, think about the triple constraint (scope, cost and time) and how your decision could impact these aspects.
Being decisive is the ability to make decisions quickly and effectively. Decisiveness is an important trait for a project manager.
We are all capable of making rational and conscious decisions but sometimes we overthink and end up not making the right decisions. Other times we don’t think long enough or jump to early conclusions before making a decision. Regardless, we have to face the consequences of those decisions.
However, every decision, good or bad is up to us to be accountable and responsible for their outcome. A wrong decision can jeopardize many aspects of a project, therefore, it is important to be careful and consider all options before making a decision. Having options can help you address the situation before making a decision. But what can you do to improve your decision making skills?
In functional organizations, project managers do not get many opportunities to make decisions on their own as their level of authority is low. Employees report to their functional manager and if the project manager requires a resource then the extra responsibility is assigned on top of daily duties. In this type of organization the project manager does not have the authority to ask for project work to be prioritized as the functional duties most likely are of higher priority. The project manager will need to build extra buffer in around project tasks to deal with other higher priorities tasks from resources.
In projectized organizations, the project manager has complete level of authority and control over the employees. These type of organizations are mostly focused on project work and dedicate their time and resources to them. The employees will always be part of a project and will be committed to them. A great example of these type of organizations are construction organizations. Employees are dedicated to working on projects and tasks.
In matrix organizations, a project managers’s level of authority is shared with a functional manager in the organization. This type of organizations overcomplicate the level of control over employees as they now have a functional manager to report daily duties and a project manager to report project duties. Matrix organizations are the most common and the ones I have worked with in my career. A project manager, must establish excellent relationships with different managers from multiple departments or lines of business for “borrowing” resources when needed. It is hard for employees to divide their time and attention between project tasks assigned and urgent tasks asked to be completed by their functional manager. That’s why it is important to be able to have discussions with functional managers regarding the importance of your project and tasks their resources are assigned to. In previous projects I have personally established conversations with my project team regarding the importance of their time and commitment in the tasks that they are working on. I also have had conversations with their managers to emphasize how important is that resource for the project and for the tasks that they are working on to be completed on time as per the schedule. These type of organizations can impact your level of confidence and power to make decisions.
I have had to make important decisions in projects. During one of my projects, I ordered the wrong server model for my project. I knew my team was tied up with other tasks at the time and I did not get a chance to discuss the details with them. I wanted to get things moving fast with the order to focus on other tasks. Since I already had experience buying IT equipment I decided to go ahead with the purchase and trust my gut. Over the years working as a project manager I have developed habits such as discussing my decisions with my project team. I communicated my team that I had placed the order and asked them to review it. They informed me that I had placed an order for the wrong server model. A major delayed in the project timelines could have happened if the wrong server equipment would have shipped. I contacted the vendor right away and discussed my options. Fortunately, the order had not shipped yet and the correct server model was in stock. The vendor fixed the issue for me and allowed me to order the correct equipment. This situation taught me to have patience and always consult with my team before making important decisions.
We all have the ability to learn from our past decisions. If they were either good or bad, we should all be able to go back and think about why in those moments we made those decisions. We should be able to reflect upon them and change our decision making approach depending on the situation. I believe that we can do better the next time we have an important decision to make. When making a decision, think about the triple constraint (scope, cost and time) and how your decision could impact these aspects.
Discuss matters/issues with your project team, stakeholders and get information directly from the subject matter experts in order to make better informed decisions.
Also, beware of decision paralysis as it is a real thing. Sometimes, project managers can doubt about their decision making skills and impact the project by not making a decision in a timely manner. Analyze your situation and assess your options before making an important decision.