Each project is full of small and large decisions which dictate processes and order deadlines. It goes without saying that any deferred decisions or decisions that are not met at all lead to delays and can affect the success of a project. The project manager therefore has the task of expediting these decisions precisely at the right time.
How to Expedite Quick and Good Decisions
Every project manager knows this kind of dilemma: you are sitting in an important meeting and there are four important topics on the agenda which each require a decision.
However, new concerns are being expressed, questions that you thought had already been resolved are resurfacing or completely new suggestions are even being raised which will certainly result in delays. The project manager now needs to perform a very important part of his or her role and make it clear to all participants, and to the decision makers in particular, that the decision really must be made now in order to avoid any adverse consequences. However, how is it possible to do this in a diplomatic and, above all, successful way? The use of decision matrix documents has often proven to be very useful in these types of situations.
Decision Matrix Documents to Support Decision Making
Decision matrix documents are obviously not needed when approaching decisions such as the choice of the right tone of grey for a set of wall tiles or the number of light fittings that need to be ordered for a suspended ceiling. However, in the case of more complex decisions, which determine the progression of the project and the particular course it is following, a well-prepared decision matrix document can be helpful.
The document needs to reflect the facts in a neutral way so that the decision maker can see all the facts at a glance. The project manager needs to have focused on the decision and the facts of the situation a few days before the meeting or target date. The project manager should try to put himself in the position of the decision maker and should anticipate possible questions and concerns so that all aspects of the decision can be examined. At the same time, it should be very clearly emphasised at the beginning of the meeting that the decision cannot be postponed.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Decision Matrix Documents
One advantage that results from a complex decision matrix document that evaluates as many conceivable scenarios as possible and assesses the specific pros and cons, is that it is necessary to thoroughly prepare the document which enables the project manager to become familiar with the subject again and to clearly summarise all questions relating to the subject. In addition, the decision maker feels that she is receiving a comprehensive brief and is being provided with the best possible basis for decision-making. The thorough research undertaken by the project manager enables the decision maker to reach her decision with a clear conscience and without any uncertainty. This obviously ensures that the customer or responsible person feel satisfied and positive about he decision. Another advantage is that the decision making has been carefully documented for a later date and it will therefore remain easy to understand. It can be said that one significant disadvantage is the vast amount of work that is required to create a decision matrix document. It cannot be quickly produced within a few hours. It is important that the document is prepared in a professional way and that the decision maker feels that all the facts are at his disposal. It is therefore important to ensure that the document is prepared carefully.
This is a fundamental part of the project manager’s responsibilities. If the available project schedule has been well prepared and if it provides information on which decisions are pending and which ones require a matrix document, there will generally be enough time for the project manager to thoroughly prepare for the decision dates.
Tips to Help Expedite Decisions
It is important to formulate the decision factually and precisely right from the beginning. It is also advisable to describe the individual points in a well structured way. The main points and the different alternatives, in particular, need to be clearly defined so that there is very little need to query any of the points.
The alternatives should be presented in the most objective way possible. Firm A or firm B? Which factors influence the reaching of one decision or another? Should expensive insurance be taken out or not? Which risks are associated with the alternatives to the decision? Which roles do price, quality and timescales play in the case of each alternative?
The project manager does not necessarily need to be neutral, however, he or she does need to make recommendations that enable the pros and cons to be weighed up and compared. Why does project management recommend plan B and under which circumstances? The expert opinion of the project manager is important in this process and is valued. The customer or responsible person should under no circumstances have the impression that he or she is being patronised as arguments and facts are what counts in this case.
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