One of the most crucial areas of being a professional project manager, and perhaps one of the most challenging, is decision-making. Professional project managers face many decisions on a daily basis. These decisions can range from the ability to take on a particular project to making a production or manufacturing decision that could ultimately make or break the project. So how can project managers ensure they are always making the best project and team decisions?
So if you’re a project manager and you need to make a difficult decision, what should you do? Where do you start? How do you know if the decision you are making is the correct one?
- Consider the impact. Depending on the decision, or the severity or impact of the consequences, a project manager might want to take some time to ponder and weigh the pros and cons of the potential impact on the project. What impact will the decision have on the outcome of the project? What would the customer think? Does the decision put any of the customer’s requirements at risk?
- Review the risk management plan. At the beginning of every project, professional project managers should be drafting risk management plans. At the time in a project when a decision needs to be made, project managers should review the risk management plan to see how the outcome of a particular decision ties into the outlined project risks. What course of action should be taken to address the risk as well as the new risks? In some cases the potential decision may have been outlined as a risk in the initial project design and risk management planning stages. It’s important to review the risk management plan and respond accordingly.
- Consider project resources. Before making a project related decision, project managers need to review the project’s current resources. How will the decision impact the schedule? Does the project have enough resources allocated to its tasks to accommodate the change or decision? How will it impact the budget? Of course, any delays in schedule will need to be communicated with all resources, relevant team members, and the customer.
- Communicate. The last extremely important point in crucial project management decision-making is communication. All risks, potential impact and consequences, schedule or budget changes, client communications, etc. should all be properly documented and communicated throughout the team. In order to effectively carry out the change or decision, team members and resources need to be aware of everything that’s on the table. What and how will tasks be affected as a result? How will all risks be addressed? How will these be communicated to the customer?
It’s true that project managers need to consider all elements and impacts of a potential decision prior to making one. Sometimes it is difficult to determine exactly how a particular decision will create a ripple effect throughout the lines of a project. This is why it is extremely important to consider all risks, resources, and ensure proper communication through the decision-making process. Project managers should also document these particular decisions as well as the process and reasons why it was made so that future projects can model after it during post mortem, if necessary.