Blogging AllianceHarry HallProject Management

How to Be More Forward-Thinking in Your Project Decisions


Projects involve a constant stream of decisions. Some decisions are quick and easy. Others are difficult, take lots of time, and have significant impact. Let’s look at three decision models that can help you be more forward-thinking in your project decisions.

Few project managers think deeply enough about how their project decisions will be made. Using the wrong decision models results in weak decisions that often change later, in turn resulting in adverse impacts to your project schedules and budgets.

Various types of decisions may be used during a project. You may make command decisions, consultative decisions, and consensus decisions, to name a few.

1. The Command Decision Model

Command decisions occur when leaders make quick decisions with little or no input from others. Command decisions are often made when there is an urgent situation such as a crisis.

Project sponsors and project managers sometimes make the mistake of using this decision model too much and over-control their projects. These individuals may be perceived as manipulative people, resulting in team morale and performance issues.

Let’s look at a decision model that gets the stakeholders engaged and improves buy-in to the decisions.

2. The Consultative Decision Model

The decision-maker such as a project sponsor may ask a project manager to lead a topic or problem discussion and bring them a recommendation. The project manager works with stakeholders to define the problems, elicit possible solutions, and discuss the pros and cons of each option.

The project manager makes a recommendation to the project sponsor. The sponsor makes the final decision, which is communicated to the stakeholders.

But this decision model has its downsides. Consultative decisions require more time than command decisions. The project manager should plan the discussions carefully and use the tools and techniques to engage the stakeholders while avoiding analysis paralysis.

So what about decisions where you want the team to decide?

3. The Consensus Decision Model

The project sponsor may not feel the need to be involved in certain decisions. A consensus decision may be made. The project manager follows the same steps as the consultative process. However, the final decision is made by the team.

What’s the downside of the consensus decisions?

First of all, these decisions take more time than the command decisions. Second, the team may lack the perspective of someone higher in the organization. The team can make decisions without the most significant facts.

At this point, you might be thinking: All of this is interesting, but how can I be more forward-thinking and use these decision models to my advantage?

Develop Your Decision Management Plan

As you are initiating and planning your projects, do some decision planning. In much the same manner that we create a communication management plan, develop a decision management plan.

Include the following items in the plan:

  • What are the most important decisions?
  • Who will make the decision (e.g., sponsor, project manager, project team, a stakeholder)?
  • When must the decision be made?
  • How will the decision be made (e.g., command decision, consultative decision, consensus decision)?
  • How will the decisions be recorded (e.g., decision register)?
  • How will the decisions be communicated to team members and other stakeholders?

Read more: How to Actually Make and Execute Better Decisions>>

It’s Your Turn

Select one of your projects. Analyze the decisions that have been made. What went well and not so well in the past decisions?

With your project sponsor and project team, collaborate on the upcoming decisions. Determine the decision type, who will make the decision, and how the decision process will be facilitated. Record the decisions in your decision register once made.


For more brilliant insights, check out Harry’s blog: The Project Risk Coach

Harry Hall

Harry Hall is a coach, speaker, teacher, and blogger in Macon, Georgia. He’s led projects and implemented PMOs for General Electric, IKON Office Solutions, and the Georgia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company. Harry received his B.S. and Masters from the University of Georgia. He has certifications as a project management professional (PMP), risk management professional (PMI-RMP), and has an associate in risk management (ARM-E). When Harry is not conducting project management workshops and helping project managers prepare for their PMP and PMI-RMP exams, he enjoys gardening, golf, guitar, and teaching others how to speak Southern. You can get Harry’s project management tips, tools, and techniques at The Project Risk Coach by clicking the little "house" button directly below.

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