CEO, TimeLinx Software, Inc.
Project & Service Automation
Decision making is something every project manager faces daily throughout project engagement. It can be difficult and time-critical, especially more complex projects. There is never as much information available as would be ideal, and there is rarely an obvious best choice. You make do. For critical issues, the decisions you make and the response paths you choose may mean the difference between project success or failure. You have to think about impacts on timeline, budget, customer confidence, and project performance while also considering team skill sets and ability to respond correctly.
If you have any time at all to run through a bit of response planning and evaluation of alternatives, then it's good to have a decision-making process ready to use. For me, it's what I call the “three “C”s of great decision making: consider, collaborate and communicate.” Let's discuss...
Consider. What is the real problem or situation? Consider the information at hand. Gather as much information as possible about the problem or issue. Begin to think about the possible causes, assumptions, alternatives, technical workarounds, symptoms, and risks as you prepare for the next step. All these things are likely going through you head as you start to assemble the team to discuss. Write things down... document what you know so you can move on to discuss it with your team.
Collaborate. Next, collaborate with your team—even when you are solely responsible for the ultimate decision. Different perspectives always improve results. Utilizing the information you've gathered, solicit ideas on the variables, assumptions and risks and determine possible mitigation, work-around, or corrective responses. Would including other stakeholders in the decision-making process be helpful? Who else can contribute information, assistance and good decision-making skills in the timely manner that is necessary for the problem or issue scenario at hand? Which response is the best? You may need to make the decision now based on time or client availability or you may need to move on to the next step before making a final decision.
Communicate. Finally, communicate your findings. It is best to work with the customer to make the best project choice when time allows. It's their money and presenting them with a few expertly chosen options makes sure they feel in control. If your message is post-decision because of time constraints, then communicate the decision made, why that particular decision was chosen and how the issue resolution is responding so far.
Even though this process is described in three steps, that doesn't necessarily mean it happened over a few days or a week. It all may happen within hours or minutes, with all three “C’s” blending into a single event. Timing will be driven by circumstances, but your decision will benefit from including all three factors in every instance.
Summary / call for input
Good decision making in pressure situations often may come down to one person making the call because of time constraints. If you are the project manager, that's going to be you or possibly your business analyst in most cases. Do your best to consider, collaborate and communicate. Use all your resources helps you make the best decision possible for the project, team and ultimately the project client.
Readers – what are your thoughts? When you've had tough issues come up on projects... tech or otherwise... what are the steps you go through to fight through the haze and come up with the best decision or solution possible given the project situation and constraints? Please share and discuss.