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.
Posted by Neal Shen on: June 17, 2009 12:31 PM | Permalink


Glen B. Alleman
Neal, A good place to look for this decision making process is 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

Dheerendra Kumar Singh
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.

Adeyanju Alade, PMI Student Member
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.

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