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Factors influencing critical project decisions

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A new research report, sponsored by APM, sheds light on how critical project decisions are made and their impact on project success.

The research has been carried out by Dr Natalie Marguet, senior lecturer at the School of Leadership and Organisational Development, Liverpool John Moores University, with a focus on improving decision-making effectiveness. The study draws insights from several theories, explores project decisions as complex social phenomena and proposes an alternative but complementary perspective to linear and rational decision-making practice.

Daniel Nicholls, research manager at APM, said: “This latest study, as part of our research fund series, will be of huge benefit to project professionals with responsibility for making decisions about or within projects, as well as trainers and academics responsible for advancing project management theory and practice.”

 What did the study seek to achieve and how was it carried out?

The study asks: what are the factors that influence decision-making in practice and how can project professionals ensure that critical project decisions are as effective as they can be?

The report takes the first step in building a clear picture of the ways that critical project decisions are made in practice. The intention is to suggest ways to enhance practitioner understanding of how decision-making effectiveness can be improved through simple techniques that can be embedded into daily practices.

The research results from several data collection methods including:

  • a survey of 430 respondents that captured decision-making styles and perceptions of UK project professionals
  • 30 interviews to further understand the experiences of project professionals
  • 3 simulation workshops to validate the previous findings and provide in-depth practical insights.

Findings and recommendations:

Based on the exploratory research undertaken, four simple practices are proposed that assist project professionals in improving the effectiveness of their decision-making. They are as follows:

  1. Project decisions are dynamic; therefore, it is essential to consider the cognitive and situational factors that influence project decisions.
  2. Structured reflective practices enable project professionals to learn from their experiences and enhance how they make decisions.
  3. Embedding structured debriefs into decision processes provides opportunities to make sense of the decision situations and assess appropriate styles and strategies of decision-making.
  4. Timely feedback must be incorporated within an iterative decision process that is broader than performance-related aspects of project decisions.

Download the full report Detect, reflect and adapt: factors influencing critical project decisions here  



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  1. Jonathan Norman
    Jonathan Norman 16 April 2021, 10:01 AM

    Great report. Thank you. Interesting to see how the main themes chime with Elmar, Kutsch, Mark Hall and Neil Turner's model for project resilience, which they describe as the Art of Noticing, Interpreting, Preparing,, Containing and Recovering and which I recommend to members: