Project managers do not spend enough time thinking about the quality or the impact of their decisions and very little training is available.
That is one of the perspectives explored in a new book, Advances in Project Management, published by Gower, which brings together many leading authorities on topics that are increasingly relevant to the successful delivery and management of projects.
Making good and informed decisions is increasingly recognised as a key competence that both defines and underpins many aspects of modern management and leadership. Indeed many researchers have concluded that management and leadership are fundamentally about making good decisions.
But what about when that decision is bound by a set of constraints – as experienced by today’s project managers often operating in complex, dynamic, novel and uncertain situations.
Projects are often depicted as short-term engagements. In such temporary environments, decisions often have to be made in speedy fashion.
The implication is: that decision makers do not have sufficient time to analyse and review all the options; that only partial information can be gathered; and, that part of the context will not and cannot be explicitly stated and understood.
The importance of good decision making, and having the right information to make an informed decision cannot therefore be overestimated.
This view is supported by the authors of Advances in Project Management, who reason that one of the reasons projects continue to fail at an alarming rate is the lack of project capability – knowledge and experience – further up the management chain, among strategy and senior decision makers.
But there is a sea change coming. That change will affect the way projects are perceived, led and governed, particularly in the context of the wider organisation to which they belong; whether that is in the public, private or not-for profit sectors.
As we expand the scope and horizon of projects and consider long term implications, ethical considerations, environmental impact and societal legacy, we enter a world which involves greater complexity, ambiguity, uncertainty and volatility and requires new ways of rationalising, deliberating and conducting trade-offs.
Ultimately, reflective thinking and active engagement will pave the way to developing a new understanding, and a healthier appreciation, of the role of decision making in professional practice, which in turn will highlight the crucial impact of rapid and effective decision making in managing, leading, directing and guiding complex projects.