Effective decision-making is a key skill for both project managers and business analysts to cultivate. On your projects, you should approach your decision making from two different (and sometimes conflicting) points of view. You must first understand what is involved in making a good decision, and then help your other project team members and key stakeholders make good project decisions.
Sure seems like project decisions need to be made in situations where you are faced with multiple ways of doing things. You may find yourself selecting between possible solutions to solve a business problem or deciding which supplier will provide your project with goods or services. There are three common traps we encounter when gathering information in order to make project decisions. They are:
Part of your project decision-making process is assessing the impacts of uncertainty and of any new information. Remember, uncertainty is the same thing as risk. There are always risks associated with making decisions for your projects. Your job is to minimize those risks by making the best decision possible given what you know at the time. That said, let’s take a look at each of these potential decision-making traps in greater detail.
Be careful when you find yourself accepting the initial framing of a problem without questioning if that problem definition is complete or correct. Remember, the way you frame a problem significantly influences the solutions that you will generate as options to solve that particular problem. The same problem, when seen from a different angle can lead to a directly opposite interpretation. You need to remain neutral when framing a problem versus bringing your biases into play. Turn that problem definition on its head and see what you see.
The second trap we often fall into is the “sunk cost fallacy”. On our projects and in our daily business operations, it is very easy to look at what we already have and what we spent for it and decide to continue on in the same vein. This often results in what I call “zombie projects” where the work continues on a project that has no business justification and no reason to continue. Sometimes it is actually better to decide to terminate a project versus continuing on because we have already invested our time, dollars and energy.
The third potential project decision trap is our tendency to place greater weight on evidence confirming our existing impressions versus thinking out of the box and looking for more information. The lure of the solution that agrees with your opinions and knowledge is undeniable. Problem is, this may not be the best or the only way to address your particular project problem. I have a buddy who calls this idea of lateral thinking “inside, outside, upside down.” You never know what you will see or discover about something when you deliberately change your point of view.
Recognizing these three potential decision-making traps and taking steps to minimize or avoid them can make for a better project and a more successful outcome. Taking the time to gather information and remove the bias from the decision is well worth the doing.