Decision Making Process Part 3 – Consequences of a Poor Decision Process

It is important in both project management and life in general to have a solid decision-making process. This doesn’t mean that every decision you make will always have the best outcomes, but it puts the odds in your favor that more often than not you will make good decisions.

Here are the main consequences when you don’t use a good decision-making process:

  • Regret – You know you are not using a good process if you find yourself saying “I should have…” or “I shouldn’t have”. If you use a good process, you understand that sometimes the outcomes don’t go your way, mostly due to circumstances beyond your control. You avoid regret. Wouldn’t it be great to live a life of no regrets? Or like in the song “My Way”, you can say “Regrets, I’ve had a few, but too few to mention”.
  • Unintended Consequences – This usually happens when a decision is not well thought out. You intentions are good but it turns out bad. An example is “use it or lose it” budget policies. This almost always causes organizations to waste money to avoid future budget cuts. Sometimes, a decision can be so complex as to be unable to avoid unintended consequences. In a future post in this series, I will show how good Risk Management can minimize the damage.

When you have a good decision-making process you don’t measure success by the outcomes, you measure it by answering the question “Was my process sound?”. I will expand on this in a future post.

Decision Making Process Part 2 – Why we struggle with some decisions

In both project management and our daily lives, we are faced with many decisions every day. The size and importance of the decisions vary but every decision we are faced with burns some amount of brain energy. If you have a good decision making process, you can minimize this energy drain.

There are many reasons why we struggle with some decisions. Here are some of the most common:

  • Too many choices – Our minds are comfortable with 3 to 4 options but when the alternatives grow much beyond that it could cause a “decision paralysis”. We see this in our daily lives when shopping. How many varieties of Cheerios are there? Dozens! When faced with too many choices, we sometimes shut down and don’t choose anything (which of course is also a choice).
  • The apparent choices are all bad – This is the case where none of the options are a win. But how do we determine which alternative is the “least bad”?
  • The apparent choices all seem equally good – In this case, we may regret choosing an option if it means we miss out on the good outcomes of the other options. Why can’t we have our cake and eat it too?
  • Loss Aversion – We fear risking something we have to gain something we want even if the odds are in our favor.
  • Fear of being wrong – Most of us beat ourselves up (mentally) when we make a mistake. Sometimes we fear our own self-lambasting if we make the wrong choice.
  • Fear of being criticized – No one likes criticism. We want everyone to love us, right? We want to show everyone how smart we are by never making a bad choice. This is obviously unrealistic.

In the upcoming posts in this series, I will show how a good decision making process can eliminate (or minimize) all of the reasons we struggle with making decisions.

Decision Making Process Part 1 – Overview

If you are a Project Manager, you make numerous decisions every day. Some are minor, some major and some in-between. Good communication and decision making are the top two skills needed by the Project Manager for sustained success. In the upcoming series of posts, I will share some thoughts and methods for effective decision making.

Here are the topics that will be addressed:

  • Why we struggle with some decisions
  • The consequences of poor decisions
  • The outcomes of a good decision-making process
  • The eight step process
    • Begin with the end in mind
    • Identify and analyze your alternatives
    • Identify and mitigate your risks
    • Distance yourself from short-term emotion
    • Make contingency plans
    • Make the decision
    • Evaluate the outcomes
    • Evaluate the process
  • Summary