Decision-making authority ain’t all it’s cracked up to be!

From the Easy in theory, difficult in practice Blog
My musings on project management, project portfolio management and change management. I'm a firm believer that a pragmatic approach to organizational change that addresses process & technology, but primarily, people will maximize chances for success. This blog contains articles which I've previously written and published as well as new content.

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If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times – “I wish I had more decision making authority”!

Whether it’s formal authority over their team members, handling of an issue, establishing project governance, or setting direction, there is a common sentiment that the grass is greener when it comes to decision making.

Don’t kid yourself – managing projects wouldn’t be that much easier.

Imagine that you are the owner of a private company with no debt owed to outside investors. You have complete authority over all decisions made within your company – within the boundaries of the law, of course!

Will that guarantee that your company would succeed? Does that automatically mean that you will enjoy your work that much more?

Of course not.

Success comes down to having the right product or service at the right time, developed and delivered in the right way by the right people at the right price point to the right customers, and unfortunately, all the decision-making authority in the world won’t ensure all those stars align.

On top of that, it can be a pretty lonely existence – total decision-making authority would naturally separate or alienate you from the others you work with no matter how much benevolency you’d show.

And finally, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Just because you can make all the decisions doesn’t mean you should – with great power comes great responsibility. Acting on the temptation to cut corners by unilaterally making decisions is a great way to lose your best team members.

In the end, you will have reaped the real “reward” of omnipotence – being able to proudly say that the project’s failure was yours and yours alone.

Act as if you are the CEO of your project, but be thankful that you can benefit from diffused decision making authority: strength through diversity, healthy conflict and greater ownership and engagement.

(Note: I had the decision-making authority and acted upon it to re-post my July 2015 article from my personal blog,

Posted on: August 09, 2018 06:59 AM | Permalink

Comments (11)

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I have seen many times project managers misusing decision making power given to them and failing to take ownership when they make wrong decision. Projects often result in failures due to wrong management decisions. Success is guaranteed only if we make right decision at right time.

Thanks Damian - true wisdom is knowing who to involve in making a decision even if we have the final authority and accountability over the decision.

It definitely ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. Just ask Julius Caesar: "even you, Brutus?"

Very good post, Kiron. Great points. Thanks !

Nice post. Thanks for sharing !!
One cannot make good decision by applying same type of leadership style for all the problems. Some problem needs holistic approach to solve by involving different stakeholders. As you said rightly, it is leadership wisdom to select and involve right stakeholders for effective decision making.

Good points,
a good decision should always be backed-up with data points and sensible logic considering all positives and negatives making way to have good risk management practices.

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