Wanted; project manager to take immediate action

Are you the sort of person who makes instantaneous decisions on projects? You know the sort of thing: something unexpected (off the risk register) has happened. You are faced with a real problem…so instantaneous decision making kicks in.

During project management training courses I am often surprised at the decisions making skills of course participants:

• making decisions without full information – sometimes without any real information.

• failing to ask any question let alone the right questions

• making decisions without thinking through the impact on other areas such as budgets or staff morale/motivation

When I point this out to participants they nod their heads in agreement. They acknowledge that they need to think about their decisions making skills.

The interesting issue individuals and groups point to is the implied desire for instantaneous decisions making i.e. something has happened so you must make a decisions …now! Clearly, in some cases there is a need for fast decision making; however as course members say a time for reflection would be really useful

A quick dip on to the net shows 35 million responses for decisions making techniques. From my experience, few people seem to use these on real projects. Feedback suggests that a lot of decisions are based on experience and ‘gut feel.’ However, as many people on courses point out, they are faced with completely new experiences so is it any wonder decisions are often not as good as they should be?

So, what are your decisions making skills like? Maybe you need to make a decision as to whether you need to go on a decision making course!

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3 Responses to Wanted; project manager to take immediate action

  1. Pingback: Twitter Trackbacks for Wanted; project manager to take immediate action | Ron Rosenhead's Project Management Blog [ronrosenhead.co.uk] on Topsy.com

  2. Actually procrastinating decisions too long is equally wrong and I’d say I see that more often than jumping with a decision without much thinking if any thinking at all.

    The first thing which should be considered is when a decision has to be made. If you have 5 seconds it’s better to follow your gut feel than to do extensive analysis of potential choices and impact on environment in different scenarios. Luckily in our business we rarely have to make this kind of decisions.

    But if you ask what are my decision making skills, well, I can’t say I use specific techniques. Actually the pattern is simple: “ask until you understand the problem – then you’re ready.”

    Most of our erratic decisions have source in lack of understanding of a problem. If developer comes to say that we have issue with performance of an application and ask me to agree for rewriting a core of it I just ask until I understand what is the problem. Usually it ends up sending people for more analysis and additional checks bring enough information to forget about rewriting a big part of the app and fixing one small (but stupid) error instead.

    The other story is being accountable for decisions. I’ve made bunches of wrong decisions basing on my best understanding of the problem at that time. Given another chance at that time I would probably act the same. However it appeared wrong and with my current knowledge I’d look for another option. Anyway I’ve never avoided responsibility for effect of these decisions nor I’ve tried to blame others. And with every decision I make now it’s the same – I’m ready to take the consequences.

  3. Ron says:

    Pawel, thanks for your comments. You raise lots of really good points. One particular issue caught my eye; “But if you ask what are my decision making skills, well, I can’t say I use specific techniques..” Clearly as you say the problem must be understood. I’m clear this is not done as well as it should be! Once it is understood, there are lots of techniques available to help. I recognise I am trying to get people to work outside their comfort zones which will (possibly) give better decisions or at least different ones. To quote:
    “If you always do what you always did you will always get what you always got” – especially if you use the same methods/techniques.


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