Monday, January 21, 2008

A Critical Look At Executive Decision Making

"What failed and why ? " is a question most PM's ask ourselves, it's part of learning and growing.

Recently I went thru a bad experience , which made me think. So while laying back and in introspection ( yes, I literally had to lie flat on my back - I am suffering from Fibromylgia - a chronic illness where the muscles on the lower back are inflamed/swollen) . I did a lot of thinking and rethinking on the critical node between businesses and projects.

So therefore , I was asking myself- what are the signs of a failed process or a failure node. The reality, is that for many projects, failure is dialed in from the beginning. The greatest challenge that organizations face is not how the project is managed, or who manages it — but simply how the choice is made.

My operating belief in the organization was that by hiring better project managers and establishing better project processes, improved project results were attainable. Arguably, it was a desire for improvement in project performance that led the organization to adopt a new project management framework in the first place, so this objective should not on the face of it seem unreasonable. At the same time, senior management within the organization clearly believed that whatever choices they made regarding the projects that they chose to initiate were fair game — that the decision-making process was separate and distinct from what was required to successfully deliver them. I call this the ultimate dichotomy of business and project decision making.

Possibly the simplest explanation is 'because they can', but that doesn't really speak to the underlying motives that actually leads them to make the decisions they do. They continue to "dial in" project's with lack of awareness on the critical nature of the their decisions and moreover, continually keep doing the same and expecting different results. I call this the ostrich syndrome. (if you stick your head deeper into the ground, the further away the problem seems to be !!). Or maybe is just plain madness- continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different result at each iteration. And yes, just because "because they can" - its also called as "corporate version of frying the ants"

Decisions made at the outset or during a project life cycle can have the impact of effectively handicapping a project and /or short-circuiting the impact of any attempts to apply proper project management.

Through this introspection, I hope to be able to inject some much-need rationality into a process. Many may view as overly irrational (yeah, I am on med's :); and reactionary to bad experiences. Nevertheless, without leadership and proper executive decision making skills, the nodes between businesses and projects will fail to connect and that is irrefutable !!