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Making Team Decisions Wisely

By Larry Richman, Contributing Editor

"Involving other people in a decision offers both advantages and disadvantages."

During the course of a project, many decisions are made each day that ultimately effect the project for good or ill. Some are small decisions with relatively little impact, while others may have a major impact.

Some decisions are made by the project manager with little or no input from the team. Others are more important and require the project manager to get more information or the support of the team. In such cases, the project manager may wish to make a group decision with the project team.

The following guidelines can help you determine whether to involve others in the decision and how to proceed.

Involving others in a decision

Involving other people in a decision offers both advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages

  • Provides a broader perspective.
  • Contributes more experience and ideas.
  • Gets the commitment of others in the decision.

Disadvantages

  • Must be willing to negotiate.
  • May get bogged down in the size of the group.
  • Harder to control.
  • Might alienate some people.
  • Can't please everyone.
  • Not everyone has helpful insight or expertise.

When to involve others

It is usually best to involve other people in a decision when—

  • You need their commitment.
  • You don't have the expertise.
When not to involve others

It is likely not a good idea to involve others in a decision when—

  • The decision is about a trivial issue.
  • The decision is about a personnel issue.
  • You are unable or unwilling to negotiate.
  • You need a quick decision and you have adequate expertise. (The need for speed is greater than the need for commitment.)

Who to involve

Two heads are better than one only if they disagree. Follow this adage to provide the needed diversity—

  • Someone old: one who has been around a long time.
  • Someone new: one who has new ideas.
  • Someone borrowed: someone from a user or requestor group.
  • Someone blue: a devil's advocate who asks the tough questions.

Team decision-making

When you determine to make a decision as a team, use the following checklist.

  • The leader sets the agenda.
  • All team members take an active role.
  • Each person listens with respect.
  • Each person expresses his or her point of view.
  • The team focuses on what is best for the organization.
  • The decision is made by the group.
  • Appropriate assignments, follow-up, and evaluation are agreed upon.

Following these guidelines can help you make better decisions that involve the project team when appropriate.

Application Questions

How well do you make decisions?

What ideas from this article can you implement in your project management style?

 

Larry Richman, Ph.D., is president of Century Publishing. He has over 25 years of experience as a project manager, has developed computer-assisted project management systems, and has taught project management for over 15 years. He is the author of books Project Management Step-by-Step and Improving Your Project Management Skills. Copyright © 2001 by Century Publishing. This article may be copied for noncommercial, educational use.
 

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