Over the years I have participated in a number of discussions (debates really) about whether or not project managers are decision makers. The opinions seem to be pretty polarized. The camp that says "NO" argues that the executives in the organization make the strategic decisions and project managers execute those decisions. In most organizations this is probably true.
Those that argue "YES" (and I find myself in this camp), argue that depending on the size and dynamic of the organization many project managers are a part of the strategic discussion. They might not make "the" decision, but they are part of the process. What’s more, project leaders make all kinds of decisions every day. With that in mind, I think it’s important for project leaders to build some sound decision-making practices. Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert once said, "Informed decision-making comes from a long tradition of guessing and then blaming others for inadequate results."
Adams might be describing many organizations, but it doesn’t have to describe yours or how you interact with the decision-making process. Most companies don’t foster good decision-making practices—handicapping project leaders, project teams and their organizations. The answers to the following three questions will help your organization foster a workable decision-making process:
- Who? Prior to the beginning of any project, determining who has decision-making power is the first step. Of course on most projects, there will likely be several decision makers.
- What? Different members of the team will probably have different decision-making responsibilities based upon their role. Identifying the scope of everyone’s responsibility regarding the type of decisions they can and can’t make avoids confusion and makes it possible to streamline the process. Nobody wants to "Mother, may I?" every move they make, nor should the project leader or stakeholders be expected to make every decision.
- How? Identifying how decisions are made and how they are shared with project team members is almost as important as the decision itself.
Regardless of you work management practices or project management tools, making project decisions is part of a project leader’s job. What’s more, it’s been said that in-decision becomes decision with time.
The Chinese philosopher Confucius suggested, "By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is the noblest, Second: by imitation, which is the easiest; and Third, by experience which is the bitterest."
I don’t think there’s anyone who has to make decisions on a regular basis who wouldn’t agree with Mr. Confucius. What do you do within your organization or project team to foster good decision-making practices?