As project managers, we have to make hundreds of decisions throughout our careers. All of these choices have significant impacts on our projects, teams and customers. It would be great if we always had plenty of time and all the critical pieces of information that we need to make good, informed decisions.
But we don’t. And sometimes we have to think quickly on our feet, and consider a new direction.
Here are some good habits and best practices to follow if you and your team are stuck at a decision-making crossroads:
Stop and analyze. The first thing needed when a key decision is required – especially during a project crisis – is to stop and analyze the situation. As a series of questions, like: Do we need to make a choice immediately? What information is available to us? When do we need to make a decision by? What are the ramifications if a decision doesn’t work out? If it does? You might have to proceed even if you’re not sure what’s best. Going through this analysis will give you some justification, and guidance, for proceeding with your decision.
Reach out to the team. Always use your team. Not for every little decision, but for the ones that will significantly impact the project, your team and the customer. When your team is involved in key decisions, they are fully engaged and focused on the project. This also sends a message that their roles and experience matters to the project’s overall success. At the very least, their additional insight will help you make the best possible decision you can in any given situation.
Check with the customer. This isn’t always appropriate, but if you’re at a crossroads on a project and need to decide on a technical strategy, this is a good time to involve your customers. Especially if the solution will eventually be handed off to them when the project is over anyway. Bring the client into the fold if there’s a budgetary or timeframe impact. And there’s always the belief that it’s valuable to involve the customer in all decisions that have any impact on the project and the end solution.
Implement. After you’ve done all of your information gathering, it’s time to make that decision! Be prepared to explain the details behind your decision – even with backup documentation or research data, if necessary.
There will always be someone – your senior management, project stakeholders, the project sponsor or even team members – who will ask you to justify or explain your decision. Having some reasonable support for the decisions you make is helpful: It explains it to those with questions and doubts, and helps you make good decisions in similar situations going forward. Once you’ve made your decision with the information available to you, stick to it and remain confident that you made the best one possible.
Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. Brad is married, a father of 9, and lives in sunny Las Vegas, NV. Visit Brad’s site at http://www.bradegeland.com/.