Better Business Decision Making

Quick Take:

  • The way you and your team approach decision-making can affect team cohesion as well as the quality of the decision
  • Project Portfolio Management (PPM) software can provide the facts to support decision-making
  • When making decisions with a team choose inquiring over advocating
  • Follow a structured inquiry process rather than an advocacy process
  • Vital project information from your PPM helps ground your deliberations in reality
  • If you\’re the leader, consider removing yourself from the decision-making process

Decisions, decisions, decisions…

Executives tend to think of decision-making as an event that happens at one moment in time.  But a decision within an organization is a process. Do you have a good decision-making process in your organization? Or, probably more importantly, within your team?

Many organizations are making decisions without fully understanding the data at their fingertips. “Information reported on during a project’s life-cycle is not effectively analyzed against portfolio performance and consequently the impacts of decisions on the bottom line are often not fully understood,” states KPMG in a recent Project Management Survey.

This lack of understanding of decisions\’ impact of on the organization ramps up the pressure for decision-making to be better, faster, and more accurate. This is especially apparent in organizations operating in disrupted and rapidly changing landscapes, dominated by challenges of speed of integration.

Here are some pointers to consider as you develop a stronger approach to decision-making. Included are methods for making data from your Project Portfolio Management solution actionable and integrating data-driven insights into a transparent, inquiry-based decision process.

Abandon the Advocacy Process

Decision-makers and influencers often use what is called the Advocacy Process, a technique used to represent, promote, or defend an interest or recommendation. The team gets together, team members throw out ideas, and then advocate for their ideas, defending them from the rest of the group. This process can embroil your team members in a passionate contest, pitching emotionally charged opinions  and perhaps resulting in an acrimonious, and perhaps hurtful, contest.

Sometimes, groups within your organization will battle for their point of view or their portion of the budget to the point of gridlock. If everyone wants to plant their flag on something they can call their own, conflict can flare and become personal.

While it’s good to ask your team for their ideas and opinions, advocacy can become gridlock.

Embrace the Inquiry Process

Rather than asking the team to brainstorm, try the Inquiry Process. In this process, team members consider a variety of options through an open exchange of fact-based ideas. They join together to analyze ideas and strive for consensus. This approach is more likely to lead to an agreement on the best course of action than plowing ahead with an emotional battle.

The Inquiry Process is an idea-exchange method of decision-making. While debate and conflict during this process can be intense, it is never personal.

Randy Hirokawa’s functional theory holds that groups are more likely to make better decisions when they follow structured inquiry processes in which they are encouraged to:

  • First thoroughly understand the problem, understanding the nature, severity, causes and consequences of the issue

  • Establish evaluation criteria by setting agreed-upon standards for an acceptable solution

  • Develop a range of alternatives that are realistic, acceptable and feasible

  • Assess the positive consequences of each alternative by developing in the team an awareness of and a focus on the merits of each option

  • Assess the negative consequences of each alternative by considering the potential disadvantages of each option

How a PPM Solution Supports Inquiry Process

Because it is in our nature as humans to become emotionally invested in our projects, we champion our projects and advocate for support without always understanding the bottom-line. “I built this thing and it’s my baby!” is often the mindset.

According to the Project Management Institute (PMI®), Project Portfolio Management (PPM) is the “centralized management of one or more portfolios that enable executive management to meet organizational goals and objectives through efficient decision making on portfolios, projects, programs and operations.”

Project Portfolio Management can improve the inquiry process by providing information, visibility, and insight into the decisions you will make about projects in your organization. The rich nature of the data found in PPM software solutions makes it easier to ground your team’s decisions in fact. Your team can get answers from PPM such as, “Have we ever faced this problem before? What did we do then?” Or “What is the current practice across the organization for solving problems of this type?” Or even “What metrics can we use to prefer Solution A over Solution B?”

Having fact-based discussions around possible solutions enables teams to base their deliberations in the reality of your organization and the current problem that needs solving.

Understand Vital Project Information

Any decision that revolves around a project can be improved by using vital project information derived from the Project Portfolio Management software solution. After all, project managers need to live in the real world. So, when making decisions about moving ahead with a project or reallocating resources, you must deliberate in an unbiased way using facts from your PPM.

The Projectric PPM solution enhances your understanding of vital project information by determining:

  • Priority of the project for the organization: Projectric helps by performing project prioritization and scoring
  • Who is working on the project and their impact: Projectric quickly and easily helps you understand the resources available to allocate to a project
  • Whether the project is on track and on budget: Projectric can provide the real-time reporting you need to understand where your project stands

PPM directly supports fact-based inquiry, which leads to Data Driven Decision (DDD) making.

More Suggestions for Fact-Based Inquiry

If you are the ultimate decision maker on a certain subject, consider removing yourself from deliberations. Instead, review your team’s findings and discussions, and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses discussed. Cyrus The Great, the founder of the Persian Empire, was said to have praised “diversity in counsel, unity in command.” Consider your team’s input and count a PPM solution as part of your counsel.

Beware of confirmation bias—if someone on your team feels strongly about one solution over another, have them evaluate the strengths of a solution they view as weaker. “Presented with someone else’s argument, we’re quite adept at spotting the weaknesses. Almost invariably, the positions we’re blind about are our own,” says Elizabeth Kolbert in her fascinating article on the limitations of human reason in The New Yorker Magazine.

Explain Why You Made Your Decision

Explaining why you choose one option over another will strengthen your rapport and your team’s solidarity.  Take the time to review how your decision differs from the views your team members may have presented. Reviewing data gathered from your PPM solution can uphold the integrity of your decision.

Consider the insight of James Guszcza, Chief Data Scientist for Deloitte Consulting LLP:

“I’ve noticed that working with models…can make us more human. Letting the model do what computers are good at—processing hundreds of pieces of information, consistently, in a computationally efficient way, at any time of day without getting tired—frees up humans to tap into their creativity and empathy, and to spend more time understanding context and nuance.”

In other words, do not relinquish the human element of your decision; but do support the decision with data.

Making Better Decisions

Want to lead better decisions? Projectric can help.

Ask for a demo or read this comprehensive post/guide about best practices for Project Portfolio Management.  You can contact us at [email protected].