Essentials of Decision Making

Nudo_Atlantis_0029I am very avid diver here in the cold California waters. If at all possible I dive every weekend. Diving is not an extremely dangerous sport, however, decisions I make before, during and after the dive form the foundation of mine and my buddies safety and survival every dive. Making a good decision relies heavily on our ability to identify and assess the various risk factors involved in a dive.

As project managers we are continuously faced with making decisions. These decisions impact the success or failure of our project and depending on the end product of the project; it could involve the lives of the users as well.  Two of the essentials of decision making to identify and assess risk factors correctly are: self-awareness and fundamental knowledge.

Divers must be aware of their physical and emotional states before they go diving. Accident statistics show that many more accidents are caused by impairment in these areas than equipment failure. Since communicating and building relationships are core to our success as project managers, we should be aware of our own behavioral preferences and state of mind. There are many tools on the market to help identify our behavioral preference these include Myers Briggs, DISC, Strength Development Index (SDI) and 5Dynamics. In the end the tool is not important, it is important to understand our own strengths and weaknesses so we can optimize our interaction with others. I personally process information very rapidly so my preference is to get the bottom-line of an issue and then if necessary the details. Confronted with someone who’s preference is to walk through the details step-by-step before arriving at the bottom-line triggers my impatience. For me to be successful, I need to be self-aware and “catch” my impatience before it flares up. . In the same way we need to be aware of our day-to-day state of mind. Factors like stress, fatigue, and illness influence our interaction with others.

Critical to decision making is having sufficient knowledge to assess the situation and understand the risks involved. When I started diving in the mid 90s I have made decisions I would never make today simply because with my current knowledge I recognize the risks involved. Part of our knowledge comes through experience, however, a large part comes from continuous learning. Reading professional magazines, researching case studies, going to professional events, taking additional courses provides us with different viewpoints and additional knowledge that we can use in our decision making. One of the greatest sources of knowledge is finding a mentor who had the experience and whom you can bounce ideas off.

The purpose of the decision making process is to evaluate all the factors and then decide on an appropriate course of action. The real trick to making good objective decisions is to take ourselves emotionally out of the decision making loop. This is easier said than done. Being self-aware, however, helps us to recognize when our emotions might impact our decision making. In addition, keep adding to your knowledge base so you are better able to recognize the risks involved and thus are able to make better decisions.

Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision – Peter Drucker


3 thoughts on “Essentials of Decision Making”

  1. User Avatar

    Awesome to read this, Nathalie. Being self-aware doesn’t show up in the PMBOK, but in my opinion it is central to great leadership. Leadership starts within – we need to be able to lead ourselves before we lead other people. Self-awareness may be the most important characteristic of a leader, because without it we cannot learn and grow as a human being. Daniel Goleman’s good on EQ suggests that self-awareness, combined with our awareness of our impact on other people, is the foundation of emotional intelligence. After 50 years of dealing with my own emotionally intense personality, I have to agree! – Scrappy Kimberly

  2. Hi Natalie,

    Good post.

    In my experience when the going gets tough many project manager’s either panic or else freeze to such an extent that they are unable to make a decision. Being able to think effectively on one’s feet might be a soft skill, but it is one which is absolutely vital to successful project management.

    It might be unquantifiable but then your track record of successful delivery will speak for itself!


    Susan de Sousa
    Site Editor

    1. User Avatar

      Hello Susan, thank you for your response. Especially in this world where change has accelerated and we are guaranteed that the parameters of our projects will change, thinking on one’s feet is very important. And the more knowledge and experience we have combined with the self-awareness the easier it is to respond to change we will face.

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