Project Management

A Project Decision Tree

Vincent is a Senior Project Management Consultant and e-Learning Developer.

Project leaders often make decisions in the face of uncertainty and available choices might or might not produce the desired outcome. In these cases, a decision tree can help identify the “best” choice — the one most likely to give you what you want most of the time. Here’s an example of how to use a decision tree.

Let’s assume you’re managing a project that requires the creation of a state-of-the-art printed circuit (PC) board. It can take from 6–12 months to produce a fully tested PC board design. You have reasonable estimates for the amount of time to design and lay out the board but the time to troubleshoot the first board can vary tremendously. To find and resolve problems early you can create a limited functionality prototype to verify the design of critical circuits. This will reduce troubleshooting but it will delay the availability of the first fully functional board. You must decide if it’s worth developing a prototype.

This decision is difficult because of the uncertainty in how long it will take to test and troubleshoot the PC board. Although there will be a range of possible outcomes we can simplify things by considering two typical cases for the purpose of analysis:

  1. Only minor problems are encountered and these are easy to deal with; or
  2. You have to deal with major problems that are difficult to troubleshoot and …

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"When one door closes another door opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the ones which open for us."

- Alexander Graham Bell