Interview Questions

Decision Making in Project Management

How often we are faced with situations where we need to take a decision in particular to project scenario? Almost everyday?! Well, I am not surprised. It could be every moment.

There are so many factors that could affect a project delivery, that perhaps it is impossible to list all of them down in your risk plan and mitigate it. So how do we take a decision when faced with such a scenario? Stakes could be high; approval might be required from stakeholders if there are deviations; Overlooking a scenario could potentially open up another risk unplanned for; like it goes...

So they say there could be couple of approaches to decision making. I could see lot of sighs! Well I am there too. Post a qualitative question and take a quantitative answer. As simple it is!

Every scenario faced could potentially be confronted by a question. So, derive this question first. Brainstorming with relevant team members could help you out in this regard. Once a solid, conviction is there on the question (perhaps everybody thought and agreed), write it down. This is the question you need to solve. On solving this question, you will have answer to the scenario and hence the decision can be made.
(You see, it is not literally 1 question. There could be couple or even more depending on the gravity of the situation. But the best would be to take up the one which the forum feels could answer most of the other questions/issues)

For the question, there are ways to answer it qualitatively and quantitatively.

Qualitatively, you can use fish bone diagram to draw out various possible scenarios (of ifs and else) and choose the one that is deemed right. (Usually fish bone diagram is used for root-cause analysis. Can also be used for decision making).

Quantitatively, you can answer by gathering as much related data as possible and use quant-tools such as histogram, scatter diagram to arrive at and verify if the decision would solve the problem on hand.

But this looks more like QPM. And we have seen it elsewhere in this site already, isn’t it? The point we are trying to understand here is about decision making and what should be done in a specific scenario.

Let me give an example. Let us say there is a likelihood of power cut for a day unannounced. You are not sure if it will happen or not. How and what decision do you take?

Qualitative question1: Is there any effect of this problem, if it happens, in our delivery?
Ans: Refer the project plan, see if your progress is good enough to accommodate this 1 day within your planned buffers. If yes, no need to worry. Else, escalate on the deviation.

Qualitative question2: What is the likelihood of the power cut?
Ans: Refer the past historic data (of power cuts encountered by your project/program office). Plot a histogram graph on power cuts to productivity loss. On most number of days, if the data centers around the slope, it means that productivity loss would be there. Now check the histogram of power cut occurrence as a distribution with time. From the graph, we will know on what days this is occurring most and hence if likelihood date falls in this pattern, we can be sure that there will be most probably a power cut.

Alternatively, if the scatter diagram indicates the data as dispersed (not following too close distribution with slope) then that means power cut has not caused productivity loss. Hence it could be accommodated.

Hope the example gave you a fair idea!

So the essence of decision making lies in making it as an informed decision and for that the PM needs to follow a methodical approach. This will effectively bring down impact to the deliverable and also earn confidence of the customer.