Decision making and its impact in problem solving is simply undeniable and is an intrinsic part of effective project management.
- The importance of decision making in problem solving
- The 6 stages of the decision-making process
- The Decision Making Process: Defining and Identifying the Problem Clearly
- The Decision Making Process: Collecting Information
- The Decision Making Process: Brainstorming possible solutions
- The Decision Making Process: Narrowing down options
- The Decision Making Process: Implementing the solution adopted
- The Decision Making Process: Assessing results
It is key for a project manager to make sound decisions and fix problems appropriately as it affects the overall organizational functioning.
The importance of decision making in problem solving
Also in project management, problems are an everyday event, or nearly so.
It would be awesome to just pretend nothing happened and make them magically disappear, but if you don’t seek solutions, the problems will persevere.
In the workplace, if the problem-solving habit is not established in the company culture, the organization will eventually fall apart.
Therefore, the project manager must have the training and the proper decision-making process to solve business problems independently and confidently.
The 6 stages of the decision-making process
Even though some people are more in tune with proper decision making, this skill can still be learned and mastered by any person.
The Decision Making Process: Defining and Identifying the Problem Clearly
This might be the most overlooked piece of the decision-making process because it sounds so obvious, yet it is critical that all stakeholders are properly aligned on the issue at hand.
You might be shocked to discover how much information can be lost, especially in a larger corporate organization.
If problems are complex, it can be beneficial to break them down into smaller pieces as early as project planning.
It’s important to stay clear of emotion and judgmental bias as you define the problem to make it as objective as possible.
Here is a list of questions that can help you define and identify a problem:
- What is happening precisely?
- Where is this happening?
- How is this happening?
- How often is this happening?
- With whom is this happening?
- Why is this happening?
The Decision Making Process: Collecting Information
Most problems cannot be solved without a fair share of data or information.
During this decision-making stage, what is important is to collect relevant information.
Usually, having too much data hinders the process and results in a waste of time. Likewise, there may be instances when data collection generates a new perspective or problem.
In this scenario, it may be worth going back to Step 1 and revisiting the problem at hand.
The Decision Making Process: Brainstorming possible solutions
This is the time to be creative.
During this phase, the project manager, with the help of the project team and/or stakeholders, should consider any type of idea that could become a solution.
Brainstorming works best in an atmosphere free of bias because you never know which idea will plant the seed and stimulate the growth of the correct decision.
The Decision Making Process: Narrowing down options
From the lengthy list of potential ideas, now it’s time to narrow it down.
The ways in which you get to choose the main ideas may vary, but may include:
- Pros and cons list: identify the benefits and drawbacks of each option
- SWOT analysis: breakdown of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of each option
- Scenario analysis: projection of potential likely scenarios that will result from each option
Different problems will require different levels of understanding of each potential option.
This assessment process helps narrow down the options and aid in choosing the most effective and feasible solution.
It is a good idea to include key stakeholders in this process to get an unbiased and balanced view.
Here are some questions that can be helpful at this stage:
- What will the situation be like when the problem will be fixed?
- What steps should be taken to implement the best solution to the problem?
- What resources will be needed in terms of people, budget, and facilities?
- How long will it take to implement the solution?
- Who will be the main responsible for ensuring the plan gets executed?
The Decision Making Process: Implementing the solution adopted
This is the action phase, where the chosen solution gets actually executed on the problem.
This requires a decent plan and good execution, and constant monitoring of the steps is necessary.
However, in this step, two things must be kept in mind:
- First, choose the option that has the company’s interest at heart. There will be times when some employees will be negatively impacted by a decision, but in most cases the best solution for the organization as a whole is always taken.
- Secondly, keep in mind that not all stakeholders may be happy with the solution implemented. Only in rare cases will all of the single members of an entire company be fully satisfied with a major decision, and that is the case in most cases. Often, however, employees who are initially dissatisfied will eventually see that the decision was made for the overall good of the company and will adapt accordingly.
The Decision Making Process: Assessing results
Assessing the results leads to understanding the effectiveness of the adopted solution.
To understand if the plan was successful, it is necessary to get an idea of what helped and what didn’t and try to incorporate the changes.
In case the solution did not prove to be effective, you move on to choose a new option from the alternatives.
Therefore, decision making is critical to problem solving, even in project management.
It may seem like a lot of work, but by taking the necessary steps to solve important problems and come to a successful resolution will save much more time and lead to a healthier business in the long run.