Decision-Making Steps

The following steps are common among all decision-making models and will be discussed at length from a project leadership perspective: Define the problem or issue; determine the facts, data, assumptions, and other relevant information regarding the problem or issue; develop different alternatives; determine the best approach; plan for execution and feedback; and execute the decision and adjust accordingly .

Define the Problem or Issue

Defining a problem or issue is perhaps the most important step in decision making. Unfortunately, it is often the most neglected. Way too often project managers develop a solution before fully defining a problem or issue. They develop and implement a decision, perhaps only partially effective, and it is " pushed rather than pulled" into acceptance by stakeholders.

The key for defining a problem or issue, of course, is to determine its type. Three basic types of problems or issues exist: descriptive, normative, and prescriptive.

  1. A descriptive problem or issue centers on questions related to "how," that is, those that deal with applied rather than critical concerns. An example might be: How do I build this network diagram?

  2. A normative problem or issue centers on questions of what must be done "right." They address concerns about doing things correctly. An example is: Is the network diagram constructed correctly?

  3. A prescriptive problem or issue centers on questions about doing the right things. They raise issues or problems of what ought to be done. An example is: Should we build a different type of schedule?

Most project managers deal and feel comfortable with descriptive and normative issues and problems. Few have the same perspective about the prescriptive ones. Their avoidance is understandable. The first two are less controversial and require a more methodical approach. The third one requires that the project manager challenge the basis of action, e.g., whether something should be done and, if so, should be done differently. That is the nature of critical, not applied, thinking skills.

Nevertheless, once project managers classify a problem or issue, they can begin a definition process. This approach is not easy, but is absolutely crucial because defining a problem or issue will influence the selection of an approach and the subsequent chain of events to address it. In fact, it will determine what is considered and in what context.

So when defining a problem or issue, project managers must understand the context. This understanding includes the category of the problem or issue discussed; availability of facts, data, and assumption; scope or boundaries; stakeholders directly and indirectly involved; and other factors.

When defining the problem or issue, project managers face many challenges. In Smart Thinking for Crazy Times , Ian Mitroff refers to Type III problems. These problems include picking the wrong stakeholders, setting a scope too narrowly, phrasing a problem incorrectly, and failing to think systematically. [14]

From a leadership standpoint, such challenges can tremendously impact the quality of a definition. In fact, those just described can pose several challenges.

A common challenge is to define an issue or problem satisfactorily and know when it is satisfactory. There are various factors that affect the quality of such a definition.

On an individual person basis, factors include lack of knowledge and experience, deliberate introduction of bias, having incomplete data and information, misconstruing assumptions as facts and data, being impatient with the time and effort required to develop a satisfactory definition, and being "intellectually ignorant," or more politely, knowing the right answer before really knowing the issue or problem.

On a group basis, the challenge is conformity , more specifically , Groupthink. Groupthink is caused by pressure placed on individuals to modify or suppress thoughts and feelings to "get along." Decision-making processes become negatively skewed to the point of failing to make realistic decisions.

Groupthink can severely restrict essential cognitive abilities to make qualitative decisions. This challenge can permeate throughout an entire decision-making process of a group.

Obviously, the quality of a decision depends on the quality of the definition for issues and problems. How do project managers improve the quality of their decisions and the processes behind them?

  • Be aware of the influences that adversely affect a definition, e.g., individual bias and Groupthink.

  • Involve people who think differently about a problem or issue. They could provide a balanced perspective about an issue or problem.

  • Avoid rushing to judgment; that is, jumping to a solution before sufficiently defining an issue or problem.

  • Explore different ways to look at a problem or issue. Shifting paradigms and not project managers should do that. Also, encourage others to do the same by identifying the different ways and looking at ranges, possibilities, and combinations.

  • Develop multiple definitions of a problem or issue by experimenting. Chances are the definition will be a hybrid.

  • Although impossible , strive for an objective definition. Remove adjectives and adverbs, keep the definition of the problem or issue to one or two sentences, and avoid value-laden words. If people perceive a definition as biased , then emotion will prevail and influence the results.

Because mental models, paradigms, or perceptual maps influence the way people see and interpret reality, project managers must strive not so much to achieve objectivity, but to offset the negative affects of subjectivity . The best approach is to have the participation of people with different backgrounds to offset negative influences. At the same time, project managers must be attuned to their own subjective tendencies. Through both actions, project managers will increase the likelihood of developing meaningful definitions of problems or issues.

Determine the Facts, Data, and Assumptions Regarding the Problem or Issue

All three are very important for contextual understanding of a problem or issue. Some descriptions about all three are necessary.

Data consist of facts that provide the ingredients to develop meaningful information. Data alone are meaningless. Collection of data means nothing, but provides the basis to generate information. Hence, the result of processing data gives information.

Assumptions, often mistaken as facts, are subjective determinations. According to the Project Management Institute, they are construed as being real, certain, or imagined. In other words, some people view them as facts while others view them as opinions .

In the end, what we determine as facts, data, assumptions, and information are subjective. People cannot extricate themselves from their environments or their paradigms. What one project manager thinks is an assumption, another might view as fact and vice versa.

In addition, we can never really know if we have identified the necessary facts, data, and assumptions and their significance. Our mental model distorts our view of what exists by filtering and affecting our perceptions, resulting in either deliberate or accidental deception. Add emotion and it seems almost impossible to distinguish fact from fiction .

Project managers have few options, therefore, to ascertain relevant facts, data, and assumptions.

One option is a systemic approach. A systemic approach requires that they apply mental maps, which are subjective determinations of the "way things work." Despite the subjectivity, they help us to ascertain what one would consider facts, data, and assumptions. More importantly, they help us to identify the relationships among all three.

Much of the facts, data, and assumptions can be drawn in a diagram. An important advantage of diagramming is that project managers can more easily communicate with other stakeholders, thereby furthering understanding and getting consensus, if not agreement, over facts, data, and assumptions for a particular issue or problem. The type or form of diagram does not matter; that is not the purpose. What is important is the employment.

Another option, potentially for use with the last one, is to seek key stakeholders' confirmation over the facts, data, and assumptions regarding an issue or problem. After receiving confirmation, project managers have the basis for dialog on just about any issue or problem.

Stakeholders vary in knowledge, experience, values, and expectations about the dimensions of facts and data. These qualitative aspects include their reliability, accuracy, completeness, timeliness, consistency, and currency. Naturally, great variability often exists among stakeholders regarding the degree that facts and data satisfy these dimensions. Adding to the complication are problems associated with facts, data, and assumptions that arise, e.g., loss, insufficiency, meaningless, and incorrectness.

There are also "grander" factors influencing the dimensions of facts and data. These are what are referred to as potholes. In an excellent article in IEEE's Computer magazine, Diane Astrong, Yang Lee, and Richard Wang identify three major potholes: information production, e.g., multiple sources of information that produce different values; information storage, e.g., information distributed among many different and incompatible systems; and information utilization, e.g., conflicts that restrict access to information. [15] These potholes have significance because they determine the quality and quantity of facts and data available to make decisions. They also lead to very subjective evaluations about facts and data in decision making. It is very important, therefore, to involve key stakeholders to help determine facts and data as well as assumptions; their desired qualitative and quantitative dimensions; and how to overcome potholes.

Because decision making is frequently a very information- intensive process, project managers cannot ignore the above issues. Otherwise, their decisions will be flawed because the facts, data, and assumptions are flawed. Unfortunately, project managers never really know how much is enough and whether what they do have is unequivocally valid and reliable. Therefore, they need stakeholder involvement to provide the checks and cross-checks to preclude having the "GIGO effect" of decisions. (GIGO is an information technology term for Garbage In, Garbage Out.)

Of course, project managers should be cautious about relying too much on groups to help define necessary facts, data, and assumptions. Groupthink can play a powerful role in twisting or suppressing facts, data, and assumptions; project managers must control this dangerous aspect. Ways to prevent the effects of Groupthink are to meet with pertinent stakeholders on an individual basis; verify the validity and reliability of stated facts, data, and assumptions through research; and seek people in a group who hold contrary views.

Develop Different Alternatives

Armed with a consensus or agreement on defining an issue or problem and the facts, data, and assumptions, project managers can begin the arduous and creative task of developing alternatives to make decisions.

One of the biggest challenges with determining the alternatives is resisting the tremendous pressure to "know the answer" right away. Many decision makers simply jump to a decision and implement it right away. [16] What are the consequences for doing this? Decision makers then impose the decision that reflects a limited search for alternatives. [17]

This challenge has considerable influence on the quality of the decision-making process on projects.

For one, it may force an inappropriate solution. Indeed, the decision may become more problematical than not making the decision at all. The reason is that the solution may prove inadequate when the project manager tries to ram it into existence, despite the fact that it does not fit the circumstances. Project managers could then find themselves constantly on the defensive, trying to impose or sell a decision due to a lack of acceptance.

For another reason, such a solution can create unanticipated consequences because it is based inappropriately on the short- and long-term circumstances. Project managers will find themselves in a reactive mode by attempting to "put out fires" caused by the wrong decision.

If not enough, jumping to a solution can mean overlooking key considerations due to a narrow focus. Project managers with a background in a narrow discipline often fall into this trap. Their decisions have a financial or technical orientation because they rely on what they know and, consequently, feel comfortable with. There are consequences. In the short run, they may feel confident and comfortable. In the long run, however, they may have to deal with the negative impacts of being comfortable and confident.

Another reason is the poor application of resources. Even an appropriate solution consumes resources. In time, an appropriate solution will require rework , and reflect not only that it was inappropriate, but also perhaps that it partially or completely wasted resources. This circumstance can result in exceeding a budget as well as sliding a schedule but, most importantly, it can increase frustration levels for everyone.

A final consequence is the lack of buy-in and ownership when adopting an inappropriate solution. Pursuing a solution can be the result of an arbitrary decision by one person or group. By developing alternatives, subjective preferences can give way to a more objective analysis. Then, through careful assessment of alternatives with input from stakeholders, a solution can be made that has at least the appearance of objectivity, thereby avoiding the possibility of problems during its implementation.

What can project managers do to ensure alternatives will be developed?

First, they can apply more common approaches to develop alternatives. Brainstorming is one of them and has been around for a while. Its goal is to develop many alternatives prior to evaluation. Every effort is made to record as many alternatives as possible, regardless of impracticality or silliness. Alternatives can be "piggybacked" on other ones to generate more. The idea is to lower social and mental barriers that obstruct thinking. Project managers should use caution to avoid influencing or swaying a brainstorming session.

Brainstorming is not restricted to group levels. Project managers can also exercise it personally . They can generate their alternatives on a sheet of paper and apply techniques like mind mapping to freely generate alternatives, reducing the effects of prejudice.

Whether brainstorming alone or with a group, project managers must allow the freedom to consider many alternatives. That means delaying judgment to develop a complete list.

Another effective approach for defining a problem or issue is a technique called synectics. Synectics is a group approach that capitalizes on the power of analogous thinking. It uses four categories of analogous approaches: personal, direct, symbolic, and fantasy. Using one of the categories, a "client" presents an issue or problem that is refined and restated several times. The group then proposes multiple solutions to the problem or issue and after several iterations and exchanges the session ends after a time period and a corresponding solution results. [18]

Synectics is different from brainstorming in that the freedom in brainstorming is not present because the effort is to satisfy someone, e.g., a client. It also requires considering both the pro's and con's of each alternative or solution, not suspending evaluative judgment to the end. [19]

Developing alternatives is very difficult because of explicit and implicit factors that influence the quality and quantity of results. Explicit factors include past working relationships, historical experience, policies, procedures, and reporting relationships. Implicit factors include mores, norms, values, and informal networks. Project managers must strive to suspend the influences of both factors when generating alternatives. Failure to appreciate these influences can result in unsatisfactory alternatives to consider and eventually a similar decision.

Second, they can apply creative thinking techniques. Sometimes brainstorming and synectics are not enough. Project managers and their stakeholders sometimes need a catalyst to proceed forward to generate alternatives.

An excellent way to generate alternatives is to follow the insights and thoughts of Edward de Bono, an author of numerous books and articles on creativity. De Bono developed the idea of lateral thinking, which is a creative way to break the shackles of patterned thinking. He does that by considering different perspectives to generate new ideas and techniques. According to de Bono, the human mind is a self-organizing system that develops patterns of thinking. Over time and exposure, the patterns become more permanent and more difficult to change. It is quite clear that this mental behavior can serve as both an asset and a liability. As an asset, for example, it can organize and store information. As a liability, it hardens one or more patterns of thinking, thereby limiting the ability to think more creatively.

De Bono contrasts lateral thinking with vertical thinking. The former is more open to new ideas to generate different alternatives. The latter is more closed, focused on finding the right answer while moving in a specific direction. Lateral thinking is a "journey," which allows for an exploratory, nonlinear approach; vertical thinking is a "trip," which requires a focused, linear one.

Lateral thinking is a way, therefore, to challenge patterned thinking to develop different ideas, thoughts, and techniques. De Bono refers to it as "provocative." As De Bono observes in his landmark book, Lateral Thinking , especially from the perspective of generating alternatives, the goal is to look at things differently from multiple perspectives or ways, and then, using lateral thinking, rearranging and restructuring the information to derive new alternatives. [20] Some suggestions that he provides to generate alternatives are to set a quota, challenge assumptions by asking why, and suspend judgment. These and other approaches help to further the aim of lateral thinking that he says is taking multiple perspectives, restructuring patterns, and developing different alternatives. [21]

De Bono offers an additional way to break the pattern of thinking, only this time with groups. He developed an approach called Six Hats Thinking. Using the analogy of wearing different colored hats, people, individually or as a group, can change thinking via role playing.

According to De Bono, each hat has a different color to allow different thinking and, consequently, develop more alternatives. When people wear a White Hat, they think neutrally and objectively; with a Red Hat, emotionally; with a Black Hat, negatively and pessimistically; with a Yellow Hat, positively; with a Green Hat, creatively; and with a Blue Hat, they think in a controlled and organized way. [22]

The six hats approach can enable project managers to break the restraints of patterned thinking when generating alternatives. For example, during brain- storming team members may not be receptive to new ideas. Project managers can assign someone to wear a Yellow Hat to be more positive and a Green Hat to develop more alternatives to counter resistance.

Third, project managers can seek diversity in thinking styles. Too often, project managers surround themselves with people who think the same way or are assigned people who "see the world" the same way. Although it may make cooperation on a project easier and minimize negative conflict, "sameness" does not guarantee creativity. Even when everyone applies creative approaches like brainstorming and six hats, if everyone is alike the chance to generate creativity will likely not occur.

Project managers must, therefore, embrace diversity. In this context, I am not talking about race or religion. Diversity here is in terms of thinking.

Fourth, remove the barriers to develop alternatives. Unfortunately, so many barriers face the development of alternatives. Basically, the barriers can be classified as explicit and implicit. Examples of explicit barriers when developing alternatives include formal policies and procedures, managerial direction, accepted practices, availability of tools, acceptable techniques, and scope restriction. Implicit barriers, too, can often prove just as restrictive . Examples of implicit barriers are politics, norms, beliefs, values, history, culture, and managerial style.

It is easier to determine the best ways to remove explicit barriers when developing alternatives. Project managers can seek or grant permission to suspend policies and procedures, for example, or apply different tools and techniques. It is more difficult to remove implicit barriers. However, they can do some things. They can hold a session to develop alternatives at a location away from the project location. They can involve external or internal consultants or other people that do not have a stake in the outcome. They can even ask management to emphasize the importance of developing innovative alternatives.

A popular approach is to conduct an offsite meeting. The meeting is held in a distant location, giving people the physical and mental freedom away from the explicit and implicit barriers confronting them in their workplaces. Project managers must use discretionary judgment about invitees to the offsite meeting. If senior management or the wrong people attend the session, then discussion could be inhibited and thereby limit alternatives.

Determine the Best Approach

This step tends to be the least exciting to some project managers despite its importance. The reason is that the related alternative will positively or negatively influence a project in the future. When selecting the best alternative, project managers should consider the following caveats.

Strive for objectivity when selecting the alternative even though subjectivity will creep into the process. The key is to be cognizant of the potential influence of subjectivity when selecting an alternative.

Individually, bias may enter via a tendency to quickly discount alternatives either by preference or intuition. The consequence is that a few people will perceive, rightly or wrongly, that project managers are merely "going through the motions " to present the mere appearance of objectivity.

On a group level, bias may be from Groupthink. Groupthink can quickly lead to an erroneous selection of an alternative that a group may feel comfortable with, but that may generate resistance by key stakeholders.

Avoid making exceptions to the rules used to select an alternative. By resisting the urge to waive criterion, a greater opportunity arises for subjectivity to prevail. The likelihood will increase for people to protest a decision during implementation. Most people will be less likely to resist a decision if an effort to be objective has been made when selecting an alternative.

If circumstances permit, involve key stakeholders when selecting an alternative. Get their participation in the process to garner sufficient support for a decision. People will be less resistant to a decision if they feel they had involvement in its selection. Of course, this involvement depends on circumstances. In an intense , fast-paced environment such involvement may be impractical . More often than not, however, circumstances allow for such involvement. The key is to determine whether circumstances permit the desired level of involvement.

Paul Nutt identifies four levels of participation in decision making: comprehensive, complete, delegated, and token. Comprehensive participation involves full delegation to a group. Complete participation involves only interested parties, or stakeholders, with some restriction. Delegated participation involves representatives of interested parties to make the decision. Token participation involves restricting involvement and is the least effective. [23] Naturally, the level of participation depends on the style of a project manager.

Recognize that selecting an alternative will have a negative or positive impact, immediately or later or both, and will likely require trade-offs. A decision will likely have a positive impact, e.g., furthering schedule progress. It may also have a negative impact, e.g., causing rework to address a quality issue. Project managers must identify both positive and negative impacts to capitalize on the former and deal with the latter.

A decision will also have short-term impacts, positive or negative. For example, it may require an increase in team size . The additional expertise may accelerate a schedule but increase costs.

A decision may involve trade-offs. A trade-off, or "satisficing," is choosing to further one goal or objective at the expense of another. For example, it might include sacrificing a budgetary goal by having people work overtime to meet a major milestone. The important point is that selecting an alternative will likely reflect the concept of TANSTAAFL.

A decision must be communicated. People need to know about it. While common sense, this point is sometimes overlooked, which explains in large part why many a decision persists and nothing changes. The communication should include the decision itself as well as the purpose and rationale.

A decision must "go back to the drawing board" if the selection criteria reveal that alternatives failed to meet minimum standards. Often, some project managers select an unsatisfactory alternative that results in negative consequences; this circumstance may substantiate the notion that no decision may prove more valuable than having one that fails.

When making a decision to select an alternative, a project manager can take several approaches.

They can use their intuition. Sometimes, the criteria to select an alternative may not be very definitive. When that occurs, intuition may be the best approach, based on high-level criteria and a "gut feel." While intuition can prove effective, it has certain drawbacks.

In their book, Decision Traps , J. Edward Russo and Paul J. H. Shoemaker note that intuition has its flaws, e.g., inconsistency. They add that it is also susceptible to intangible factors like fatigue, boredom, and, yes, relationships with a spouse. [24]

They can apply a methodical approach. Many of these types of decision making approaches exist. Russo and Shoemaker identify two types, subjective and objective linear models. Subjective linear models use weighting approaches to which one or more people assign a value and result in identifying the best alternative. Objective linear models are used for repetitive decisions and sufficient data are available to make statistical calculations. While objective linear models have greater reliability than the use of intuition, they rely on past performance to make a decision about the future.

They can use heuristics, or rules of thumb. Heuristics, like intuition, provide a shortcut to make decisions. Russo and Shoemaker note that the goal is to reduce the "overhead" for developing the right answer. However, they caution, heuristics are wrought with danger because a heuristic may be inappropriate for a situation. [25]

In my experience, the type of decision-making approach is less important than the ability to determine the circumstances when most applicable . For example, a fast-paced environment would likely have less time available for an objective, even subjective, methodical approach. Intuition and heuristics may be a project manager's only option.

Regardless of the approach taken, project managers must be willing to perform the next step.

Plan for Execution and Feedback

Perhaps obvious, this step is frequently overlooked. Many project managers declare a decision and think people will execute it unwittingly. This is a na ve, unrealistic notion for several reasons.

A project manager often lacks formal command and control over people. This fact alone makes it very impractical to believe that people will merely "follow orders," especially if a decision is nonaligned with their interests.

Also, the immediacy of "getting the work done" often outweighs the abstract thinking behind a decision. Even routine work can overshadow a decision. The result is that deploying a decision can be overshadowed by the interests of other stakeholders. Small wonder that many project managers express frustration when implementing a decision.

In addition, many people do not understand a decision that favors an alternative. They may have a narrow discipline, e.g., information systems or accounting, and do not appreciate a particular alternative that was selected. This situation especially becomes a challenge for people whose life experience is within the paradigm of a specialized field.

Additionally, executing a decision requires a sense of ownership so people trust it and care for its implementation. People who implement a decision must see it from the perspective of both the overall interests of a project and their own. The decision must be framed in the context of trust and meaning; trust that a decision is in the interest of furthering a project and meaning in the sense that it satisfies individual needs.

Finally, few project managers realize the importance of feedback. They assume their decision is right. Circumstances can quickly change, however, and make all or part of a decision irrelevant. Feedback is important to ascertain if a decision is relevant. Nothing can cause more havoc with morale and esprit de corps than implementing an irrelevant decision. Positive and negative feedback are necessary to avoid this situation.

Here are some steps that project managers can perform to plan for execution and obtain feedback.

Define the mechanics of a plan and its execution early. This step requires answering the who, what, when, where, why, and how for executing a decision. In other words, project managers must think in advance about what needs to be done, not only the answers regarding execution but also the feedback.

Avoid developing a plan in a vacuum . Doing so unilaterally can only add difficulty during execution, especially if a decision is perceived as one of imposition . By gaining involvement in execution and feedback, project managers can expect less resistance even when a decision is unpopular. If circumstances require little or no participation, they should consider consulting with key stakeholders even casually to ascertain the degree of receptivity. That way, they can adjust accordingly.

Communicate the plan, not just once, but several times. By communicating it continuously, project managers reiterate its importance. It helps avoid, like many plans, becoming "out of sight out of mind." Through continuous communication, a plan becomes ingrained in the activities of the project.

Seek feedback on a plan. Because project managers often find themselves making decisions, simple and complex, a tendency exists to ignore the importance of feedback.

This feedback entails two key questions: Is the plan being executed as envisioned ? Is it achieving desired results?

Many project managers assume that if schedule and budgetary performance improve then the relevant decision has been effectively executed. While a good indicator, the contributor for improvement may or may not be the plan. Something else may be improving performance.

Obtaining feedback requires considerable attention, much more than many project managers realize. Russo and Shoemaker refer to the complications associated with obtaining feedback as a failure to learn. They identify serious traps with feedback that project managers should heed. These traps involve "fooling yourself about feedback," to include rationalizing, claiming credit for success (and not failure), and hindsight bias. [26]

So how can project managers ensure feedback will be useful? While plenty of attention is on desired results, as much attention should be given to how the feedback is obtained. The focus should be on how to execute the process.

Project managers need, therefore, to apply two categories of processes for obtaining feedback, formal and informal. A formal method could be to hold one-on-one sessions or team meetings to determine the effectiveness of a plan. They can collect metrics, too.

Informal methods are just as useful, perhaps even more so, at least from my experience. These methods might include holding ad hoc, one-on-one discussions with stakeholders affected by a plan or picking up signals from team members, e.g., complaints or concerns expressed , which inadvertently arise during plan execution. Project managers, like functional managers and executives, can learn much by practicing "management by walking around," or MBWA.

Execute the Decision and Adjust Accordingly

In other words, turn a decision into reality. This step is perhaps the most difficult because, like planning for an entire project, a gap may arise between the ideal and the actual. Of course, this gap poses serious challenges to project managers.

One challenge is that a tendency might exist to deviate from a plan due to "fires" that need to be extinguished. Or, higher priorities may exist that deserve more attention.

Another challenge is that executing a plan may require adjustments to deal with realities facing a decision. This challenge can create higher levels of frustration and impatience by disillusioned individuals. Support often begins to wane for decision and plan alike.

A final challenge that project managers may confront is selective hearing regarding feedback related to a plan's execution. Project managers and others may only hear what they want to hear, affirming that their decisions are the right ones and are being implemented as planned. They may not be interested in genuine feedback about negative ramifications , e.g., increasing rework or plummeting morale, which may be arising as a result of the decision or plan.

What can project managers do to prevent or mitigate the impacts of these challenges?

Involve people while implementing a plan. If done correctly, they should involve people earlier when developing a plan. This involvement should include taking responsibility for specific actions and providing feedback on their progress.

Encourage an atmosphere of openness and trust. This atmosphere will encourage a freer flow of data and information on progress about implementing a plan. Feedback will then be more useful and meaningful, and will enhance the decision-making process.

Seek feedback continuously, not ad hoc. Through continuous feedback, project managers can ascertain ongoing effectiveness of a decision and take appropriate action before something negative happens. This feedback, too, should require telling project managers what they need to hear, not what they want to hear.

Apply active and effective listening skills. These skills will help the project manager determine what is and is not important as well as avoid filtering data.

Be aware of explicit and implicit signals that often accompany feedback. Explicit signals can be positive or negative and the effects can be reflected in schedule and budgetary performance. Implicit signals, also positive or negative, are less quantifiable and more qualitative. These include people who feel that they have been forced into compliance and, as a result, conduct subterfuge through complaining.

[14] Ian Mitroff, Smart Thinking for Crazy Times , Berrett-Koehler, San Francisco, 1998, p. 19.

[15] Diane M. Astrong, Yang W. Lee, and Richard Y. Wang, 10 Potholes in the road to information quality, Computer , pp. 38 “46, August 1997.

[16] Paul C. Nutt, Why Decisions Fail , Berrett-Koehler, San Francisco, 2002, p. 49.

[17] Paul C. Nutt, Why Decisions Fail , Berrett-Koehler, San Francisco, 2002, p. 49.

[18] Gerard I. Nierenberg, The Art of Creative Thinking , Cornerstone Library, New York, 1982, pp. 197 “199.

[19] James L. Adams, Conceptual Blockbusting , 2nd ed., W.W. Norton, New York, 1979, pp. 137 “139.

[20] Edward De Bono, Lateral Thinking , Perennial Library, New York, 1990, p. 63.

[21] Edward De Bono, Lateral Thinking , Perennial Library, New York, 1990, p. 131.

[22] Edward De Bono, Six Thinking Hats , Little, Brown, Boston, 1985, pp. 199 “207.

[23] Paul C. Nutt, Why Decisions Fail , Berrett-Koehler, San Francisco, 2002, p. 108.

[24] J. Edward Russo and Paul J. H. Shoemaker, Decision Traps , Fireside Books, New York, 1989, p. 120.

[25] J. Edward Russo and Paul J. H. Shoemaker, Decision Traps , Fireside Books, New York, 1989, p. 81.

[26] J. Edward Russo and Paul J. H. Shoemaker, Decision Traps , Fireside Books, New York, 1989, pp. 173 “188.

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