PM4DEV Blog

Ideas, suggestions and general thoughts about project management for development.

What is the Decision Making Process?

b2ap3_thumbnail_decision.jpgAll project managers need to make decisions, but good decisions usually come from the use of a logical and rational process. When used correctly the project manager increases its chances of coming to the right decision. The steps for a good decision making process are:

State The Problem - The first and the most important step in the decision making process is to identify the problem. Only when there is a clear understanding of the problem or decision to be made, the project manager can proceed to seek a solution. If the problem is stated incorrectly or is unclear then your decisions will be wrong.

 

Identify Alternatives – The project manager  and the project team should then start to list all possible alternatives. Most of the time there will be several alternatives and it is worth spending enough time to ensure there are a good number of viable alternatives.

 

Evaluate The Alternatives - This is the step where the analysis of the alternatives begins. The project manager can use techniques to rank the alternatives. Two of such techniques are Decision Matrices and SWOT analysis. The purpose is to have a list that ranks the best alternatives using a set of criteria for viability.

 

Make A Decision – Once the alternatives have been evaluated. The project manager should select two or more of the high ranked alternatives. All low ranked alternatives should be eliminated. The project manager then will need to review the problem statement and test the solutions against the selected alternatives and decide on the solution that has the best chance at solving the problem.

 

Implement the Decision – Before the chosen solution is implemented the project manager will need to make a revision of the project plan, schedule, budget and other resources to ensure the solution can be implemented. Part of the implementation phase is the follow up. The follow up ensures that the implementation of the solution has solved the problem.

Once the decision or solution has been implemented the project manager should monitor and evaluate if the decision resulted in the expected results or benefits.

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The Challenges of Development Projects

Development projects operate in challenging environments, where uncertainties about the future increase the risk to the project. Managers need to deal with extremely complex social, economic, and political factors that affect the delivery of goods and services. Development projects are implemented in some of the most remote and difficult locations in the world; additionally, projects operate in areas of high personal risk and high security threats to project staff. The lack of proper infrastructure, limited resources, and a changing environment put a strain on project managers who need to deliver the project outcomes. The constant changes in the social, economic, political, and natural environment; force many projects to change its original plans; in fact, project plans are built on many assumptions that eventually are challenged by the changes in the environment. Changes in the environment are not always reflected in the original design, which causes projects to miss significantly its ultimate objectives; this is why it is not uncommon to find a project that has delivered all its expected outputs but has failed significantly in reaching its objectives. From extensive observation and experimentation through working with development agencies for years, we have seen the following weaknesses in development projects:

  • Poor project planning
  • Inadequate management skills
  • Lack of accountability
  • Lack of stakeholder involvement
  • Unrealistic plans
  • No measure to evaluate quality
  • Poor, inconsistent project management discipline
  • Duplication of efforts
  • Poor risk management strategies
  • Unmotivated project staff

Development organizations can benefit from a standardized approach to deliver their projects not only on time and within budget but in the quality expectations of the stakeholders. Project management processes and techniques are used to coordinate resources to achieve predictable results. The value proposition for project management results by implementing a common set of project management processes, competencies and tools. The value of project management to development organization includes:

  • Better expectation-setting through up-front estimating, planning, and project definition.
  • Faster execution through the reuse of common processes and templates.
  • Fewer project problems encountered when utilizing proactive project management processes.
  • Better organizational decision making through more effective project communication.
  • Higher donor/beneficiary satisfaction and less rework by delivering a higher quality outputs the first time.

Project management provides a proven methodology to accurately and efficiently complete projects of any size and complexity. The detailed planning provides a realistic plan that helps manage risks before they occur and reduce costly changes late in the project. Benefits occur only when organizations consistently apply standard methodologies and principles on all projects.

 

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