Understanding Expert Judgment
By Lynda Bourne
A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) uses the concept of “expert judgment” in most of its processes, but only has a relatively brief description of the concept. It describes expert judgment as “judgment based on expertise appropriate for the activity being performed” and advises, “such expertise may be provided by any group or person with specialized education, knowledge, skills, experience or training.”
This description leaves three questions:
Obtaining the expertise necessary to arrive at a wise judgment is not the exclusive responsibility of the project manager—you do not have to be the expert! However, the project manager is undoubtedly responsible for the consequences of any judgments that are made.
Instead, project managers should focus on knowing how to obtain the necessary expert advice and how to use that advice to arrive at the best project decision.
Finding an Expert
The first challenge in applying expert judgment is identifying the right people with the right expertise to provide advice.
By definition, an expert is a person whose opinion—by virtue of education, training, certification, skills or experience—is recognized as holding authoritative knowledge. But this definition is subjective and different experts will frequently have very different opinions around the same question or set of facts.
Also, as the Dunning-Kruger effect explains, people with limited knowledge are often absolutely certain about the facts.
Experts, however, being more cognizant of what they don’t know and having the knowledge to appreciate the complexity and depth of a problem, will frequently only provide a probabilistic answer, such as, “I would suggest this option, but….”
The decision-maker must ensure that the information brought into the judgment process is the best information—not the information that is advocated most loudly.
The organization needs to make information available to its managers about the sources and types of expertise available, and the location of useful experts. This information needs to be updated on a regular basis and be accessible.
In the context of expert judgment, judgment is an action verb—it is the ability to make considered decisions or come to sensible conclusions based on information and knowledge derived from the application of expertise. Consequently, while the project manager can, and frequently should, seek expert advice to help inform his or her judgment, ultimately the considered decision that comes out of the judgment process is the responsibility of the project manager.
The defining competence of every good manager, project managers included, is their ability to make effective and timely decisions. The challenge is balancing the decision’s importance, the timeframe in which the decision is required, the cost (including opportunity costs) accrued in reaching the decision and the availability of the resources used in the decision-making process.
The key elements of effective judgment are:
The judgment portion of expert judgment is part of the individual manager’s skill set. Their innate abilities should be supported with training and a culture that rewards a proactive approach to deciding.
Making an Expert Judgment
Bringing expertise and decision-making skills together to form an expert judgment works best in a structured process. PMI’s publication, Expert Judgment in Project Management: Narrowing the Theory-Practice Gap, outlines the framework:
When significant decisions are needed on a regular basis within the organization, standard operating processes should be defined to reinforce the practice of obtaining an expert judgment using the organizations knowledge resources.
How do you go about making expert judgments?
by Dave Wakeman
Back in the old days of command-and-control project management, ideas were mostly helpful at the front end of a project: during the planning phase. But as we’ve moved away from command and control into a world of specialization, ideas in projects and project management have taken on an entirely new role.
More than ever, ideas are what make the difference between success and failure.
For many project managers, however, it’s challenging to embrace and utilize new ideas and new ways of approaching problems.
Here are a few ideas on how to embrace new ideas more readily in your regular project work.
1. Understand that your team is full of experts.
Old-school project managers needed to have a high level of expertise in many areas, but today project managers’ key skill is really the ability to communicate. This means it’s likely the project manager doesn’t really know everything about every aspect of a project.
Which is actually good for embracing new ideas. Because as someone who has the key role of communicating and putting team members in the position to be successful, you have to understand that you are dealing with teams of experts. They’ll have ideas—be sure to listen to them.
2. Always focus on outcomes.
I know that the idea of focusing on the outcomes should be common sense by now. But in too many instances, project managers still focus on activities rather than outcomes.
So focus on the outcomes and allow your teams to have the flexibility to take the actions they think will lead to a positive result.
3. Find a new point of view.
Too many people become wed to one way of looking at things.
The problem with that mentality ties back to my first point: project managers can’t control every decision. We don’t have expertise on everything that is going on in our projects.
Get out of your own head and try to gain a different point of view. Think about a challenge from the viewpoint of the end user, the sponsor or the members of the team required to do the work. Thinking from another point of view will help you come up with a different set of ideas that you can bring to your project.
The old ways of doing things or a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work in every case any longer. The success or failure of your project is likely tied to the ability of you and your team to come up with and implement new ideas.
How do you ensure you’re noticing and taking advantage of new ideas on the projects you lead?
A Checklist for Shared Outcomes
Education and Training,
Human Aspects of PM,
Categories: Benefits Realization, Best Practices, Career Help, Change Management, Communication, Communication, Complexity, Education and Training, Ethics, Facilitation, Generational PM, Human Aspects of PM, Human Resources, Leadership, Leadership, Lessons Learned, Mentoring, PMOs, Portfolio Management, Procurement, Program Management, Project Delivery, Project Failure, Project Planning, Roundtable, Stakeholder, Strategy, Talent Management, Teams
By Peter Tarhanidis
I was recently assigned to transform a procurement team into one that managed outsourcing partnerships. I realized the team was very disengaged, leaving the strategy up to me to define. There was no buy-in. The team and the partnerships were sure to fail.
But I was determined to make the team successful. For me, this meant it would be accountable for managing thriving partnerships and delivering superior outcomes.
To get things back on track, I had to first get alignment on goals. Setting shared goals can help to shape collaborative and accountable teams that produce desired outcomes.
Establishing goal alignment can be a difficult leadership challenge; however, leaders must gather the needs of all stakeholders and analyze their importance to achieve the desired organization outcome.
I often use this checklist to tackle this challenge:
I used this checklist during the procurement team project and it helped to reset and reinvigorate the team. Once we aligned around shared goals, team collaboration increased and the organization started to achieve the targeted business benefits.
If you’ve used a checklist like this before, where have you stumbled and how did you turn it around?
By Ramiro Rodrigues
When outsourcing a job to consultants and service providers, I’ve often found that achieving "agreement" with a client that a project is finalized is one of the most delicate times.
This is usually due to the fact that by closing the project the client knows that:
Scope verification—the process of formalizing the approval of a project scope—recommends progressive approvals are made as partial deliveries of the scope take place. This process, if well planned and applied, helps to minimize the weight of the final approval term.
The strategy I developed over many years of consulting work is something I call “ground preparation.” This strategy has four simple stages that need to be well distributed in the time near the project closure to increase your chances of a non-traumatic closure.
Let's review them:
1st Stage: As you move close to the end of the project, start the conversation, preferably face-to-face, with the stakeholder responsible for accepting the project.
2nd Stage: Send that same stakeholder a draft version of the project acceptance document that is as close as possible to the final version.
3rd Stage: After giving the stakeholder time to digest the draft, follow up to discuss any questions or concerns. Also, this is a good time to let them know when they can expect the final acceptance document.
4th Stage: Send the final version of the acceptance document and suggest that you collect it with, if applicable, some sort of closing event.
Of course, we are talking about a project that has successfully achieved its goals. But even projects that have had to be aborted or projects with a low degree of success at the end must be formally shut down. A lot of this strategy can be replicated whenever the end is imminent.
What are your strategies for closing down a project?
In my next post, I will review the characteristics of the acceptance term for internal customers.
By Marian Haus, PMP
The SWOT framework is a very useful analytical tool for identifying risks and opportunities. It can be used across industries and in a range of scenarios, from project planning and risk management to strategic business and corporate planning.
When used in project management, SWOT can help capture internal project aspects (strengths and weaknesses), as well as the external aspects (opportunities and threats) that can positively or negatively influence the project.
Here are four steps for preparing and moderating a two-hour SWOT session:
1. WHAT: Explain what SWOT is, elucidating each of the four terms and giving some examples of each. For instance:
It’s important to highlight that strengths and weaknesses are characteristics internal to the project, while opportunities and threats are external.
From the very beginning, it’s equally important to define what goal you’ll be assessing under the SWOT framework. This will narrow the focus from generic to articulated obstacles and prospects that can hinder or support reaching your goal.
For this part, allocate a time-box of 15 minutes from the total two-hour session.
2. HOW: Now that everyone knows what SWOT is, explain how the analysis will be conducted.
You’ll need to prepare in advance. First, get a whiteboard and draw a simple SWOT matrix, with a quadrant for each attribute (S, W, O and T). Highlight that “S” and “W” are internal factors, while “O” and “T” are external.
Next, make sure you have sufficient Post-its for capturing the SWOT information. I recommend using separate colors for each attribute—this will improve the visualization of the SWOT matrix.
Allocate a time-box of five minutes for this part of the session.
3. CONDUCT: Conducting the SWOT analysis is the easiest part. Now that everyone understands the approach, engage the participants in capturing the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats on the colored Post-its.
For a team of 10 people, allocate 10 minutes for capturing and 30 to 50 minutes for presenting and posting the results on the SWOT board. Each contributor should individually capture the SWOT and present the results.
4. STRATEGIZE: Now that you know the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of your project, it’s time to do something about them. There are different strategies and approaches for dealing with the SWOT outcome.
One strategy is to apply a risk management approach: Qualify the captured information by urgency and impact, and define responses for risks and exploits for opportunities.
Another strategy is to convert weaknesses and threats into strengths and opportunities.
Or you can apply the simple USED approach, by addressing the following questions:
For this important part of the process, you should allocate up to 50 to 60 minutes of the session.
The SWOT analysis is a subjective assessment because the level of knowledge and state of information might vary among the attendees. Nevertheless, the outcome could help to prevent issues or exploit opportunities during your project journey.
What tips do you have for moderating a SWOT analysis?