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Making Good Decisions

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How do you make good decisions? While we don't usually ask ourselves this question in our day-to-day activities, it becomes critical when we are faced with tough situations as project managers.

Several factors contribute to making good project decisions:

Experience: Experience is usually associated with time spend within the industry/domain. But while a project manager gains invaluable wisdom over time, I am a firm believer that training with hands on simulations and role-play scenarios can fast track our ability to effectively tackle challenging situations.

Process: Process refers to the training--on the job and/or formal methods--that a project manager has internalized according to their personal strengths. When I approach or encounter difficult decisions, I typically:
•    Identify the root problem by asking why multiple times
•    Prioritize options with pros and cons
•    Seek to learn from my decisions

Guiding principle(s): Guiding principle is the wisdom that project managers gain from understanding past mistakes. The principle that guides me as a project management professional is the 80/20 rule (Pareto's Law). The 80/20 rule is often observed in real life (or systems) to show that approximately 80% of the work seems to come from 20% of the sources.

When I am faced with 100 items on my to do list, I have a couple of options to tackle the workload:

•    Spread my effort evenly across all 100 items and hope for the best (meet project deadline that is)
•    Utilize the 80/20 rule--Prioritize and work on 20% tasks that when completed would bring the most value to my project.
 
In other fields such as software development, Pareto's Law is often applied to the case that 80% of the defects seem to originate from 20% of the software modules. 
 
Keep in mind that this is approximation, yet a lot of empirical data seems to point to a variation between 10% to 30%, but the name 80/20 stuck as what we the project professionals refer to in today's world.

Courage: While everyone may know the right thing, it takes courage to actually follow through in the face of adversity.

 

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3 Comments

Quite well figured out...the four factors highlighted with respect to decision making in Project Management activities are universal. Although, they are not exhaustive but they serve as a good start towards making good decions. I also opined that factors such as availability of new information, relevant resources( human/materials) and discipline are also needful.

Nice Article. After reading this article many of us will feel that 80/20 rule is true in general situations also and can benefit in many situations of decision making specially when we have lots of alternatives.

Neal,
A good place to look for this decision making process is
http://www.stevens.edu/sse/fileadmin/sse/pdf/Dissertations/powelldissertation.pdf

Col Powell describes the decision making processes and how they can be improved in a systems engineering and project management domain.

Glen B. Alleman
VP, Program Planning and Controls

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