Simplicity is more of an art form than we realize. Albert Einstein once said that any fool can overly-complicate things. To move in the opposite direction- towards simplicity- requires a touch of genius.
If there were ever a project manager mantra, this might be it. Too many organizations make their internal processes more complicated than they need to be and waste a lot of time trying to ensure compliance. Simplicity is more direct and therefore more useful when you’re struggling to make mission-critical decisions for your project.
Here are some tips to get you started.
1. Speak From Experience
When something unexpected occurs during the project timeline and a decision needs to be made on how to respond, review your own experience with similar situations. What solution proved to be the most effective? If this is an entirely new scenario for you, ask the team or a fellow project manager for advice. Taking past outcomes into account when making an important decision is both simpler and more efficient than trying to devise an entirely new resolution.
2. Maintain an Open Dialogue
Making the right decision requires a deep understanding of the project’s purpose and goals. Managers facing a dilemma may be tempted to review the original proposal for a solution. While this document can provide a valuable guideline, chances are that the project has evolved beyond these core concepts and you may not find the answer you need in a proposal presented months ago. Maintaining an open dialogue with team members and stakeholders as the project unfolds will give you the level of understanding needed to make important decisions.
3. Delegate Decision-Making Power
On the surface, having a limited number of key decision-makers (such as the project manager and client) appears to be a suitably simple arrangement. We’ve all heard the adage about too many cooks. But what if a decision maker is in a meeting, on vacation, or otherwise unavailable, and an immediate response is needed? Suddenly this arrangement isn’t so simple after all.
The solution: ensure that all decision-makers have at least one party who is authorized to make a decision on their behalf. This way, there is a reduced risk of damaging delays due to the absence of the project manager or the client. It also helps if the project schedule includes the scheduled absences of key participants, so that team members with urgent questions can contact their deputies instead of send a text or email that could take hours to be answered.
5. Use the Right Project Management Methodology
There are many powerful project management methodologies, but they aren’t all created equal. Each one was originally conceived to support a particular process and outcome, and when you use the methodology that matches your project specifics, making routine (non-urgent) decisions is a lot simpler.
- Agile project management is based on personal interactions instead of rigid and impersonal rules, making it both flexible and adaptive. It is frequently used for software development and other projects that develop via feedback and continuous improvement. If a problem arises, you know what needs to be done- refer to the team and stakeholders for recommendations.
- Kanban is a visual methodology that presents the project workflow system in the form of a board that’s logically arranged and easy to follow. Each task has its own Kanban card and the basic board layout consists of three columns marked ‘ To Do’, ‘In Progress’ and ‘Done.’ Like Agile, Kanban was designed for projects that emphasize continuous improvement, but the visual aspect allows you to detect many problems in advance and decide on solutions before the situation becomes critical.
- The Lean methodology strives for maximum value by cutting back on waste, such as excess inventory. Although it tends to address operational deficiencies instead of project challenges, the lean concept can be used to simplify your decision-making process.
- The Waterfall methodology appeals to many project managers because it maps progress in a logical and linear fashion. Its premise is simple: move to the next phase only after the current one is completed, leaving you with fewer decisions that need to be made. If you are working on a large project with strict deadlines and a regimented approach, the Waterfall methodology can simplify not only decision-making but project direction in general.
6. Use Gantt Charts
Gantt charts are used by thousands of project managers to improve team communications, enhance productivity, track progress, and standardize the project in a way that simplifies decision-making. Online project management tools such as Toggl Plan feature make it easy for you to create Gantt charts that:
- Keep all decision-makers on the same page, so that misinformation doesn’t cause delays or disputes. When all stakeholders have the same information, expectations are mutually understood and arriving at a consensus takes less time.
- Visually document the steps involved in making a decision, so that even if a client is on holiday and their deputy is representing them, it is easier to maintain uniformity (and simplicity).
- Allow you to easily detect and remove any inefficiencies in the process, such as regular causes of delay and excess, unnecessary decision-makers.
- Make task relationships clearer. Gantt charts can clarify how the various tasks in the timeline are interrelated and perhaps require one to end before another one can begin. These insights can simplify your decision-making because they provide clear guidelines for what has to happen.
Making Decisions- the Simpler Way!
Making good decisions is not easy, but that doesn’t make this skill any less vital. According to the Project Management Institute, 47% of unsuccessful projects are affected by poor decision-making.
As a project manager, you need access to key elements that can be easily overlooked when decision-making power is not adequately delegated, or you’re using the wrong methodology for your project, or client directions are unclear. The strategies in this article can help ensure that the right project framework is in place and making the right decision can be done as quickly and efficiently as possible.