Making Decisions – A Collaborative Approach
“Most high officials leave office with the perceptions and insights with which they entered; they learn how to make decisions but not what decisions to make.” – Henry A. Kissinger (Secretary of State, USA, from Sept. 1973 to Jan. 1977)
I believe that Henry Kissinger has it right. We really only learn to make decisions once we start management. When I think back on my own management training, decision making was not a topic we studied very formally. However, on reflection, making good decisions is a key part of Project Management and making transparent decisions with the team is a critical part of Collaborative Project Management.
Your approach to decision-making impacts upon projects in two key ways:
- Project Decisions: Every decision you make as a project manager helps or hinders the project. Each decision can make the project shorter or longer, less or more expensive, simpler or more complex. Each decision can improve or undermine team morale, making the team feel better or worse about their participation in the project
- Personal Decisions: Every non-project decision you make affects your mood, your disposition, and ultimately, your leadership. If you are happy as a person, then this will come across to the team and will help the team mood and morale.
It is important for you to make good decisions (inside and outside of work). It is also important for your project team that you make and facilitate good decisions. Have an approach to making decisions. Involve others collaboratively in key decisions. For big decisions, communicate the intended decision making process upfront and later, share the results.
Collaborative Decision Making
Decision points occur at all five stages of Collaborative Project Management illustrated in the diagram below. As a project manager, you will want to merge your knowledge and experience of project management practices with the specific context of your team, the project, and finally, mature decision making approaches.
Many decisions are made on gut instinct. This is the most common way to make a decision. Sometimes you just know the right decision and the right course of action is obvious. If you know, you know! And if you are right, then you have nothing to worry about.
But what if you are wrong? If you are wrong, you will find out or be found out. If you make an instant decision, be prepared to adjust if you are wrong. Be courageous, flexible and open enough to reverse the decision if it is wrong. Not everybody finds this easy, but it represents the best of honest leadership.
How do you make decisions today? Reflect on some of the decisions you made recently at work or in your personal life. Think through some of the larger life decisions you have made over the years. What is your approach to decision-making?
Editor’s Note: This article is an excerpt from our free book, Collaborative Project Management: A Handbook.