My Projects

August 20, 2006 2485 comments so far

Be Willing to Make Decisions (Fast)

If there is a single thing which distinguishes a project leader from a project administrator then it is his or her ability and willingness to make decisions. It also makes sense to make decisions as fast as possible, because until a decision was made you will be traveling in a rudderless boat.

A few days ago I went to the movies with an old friend and later on, we went into a pub and had a few beers. As always we had a great, inspiring discussion and this time we somehow ended up at the topic why some decisions are never made and that this often causes serious consequences. When walking back home I thought about the topic a little bit further and since project leadership is also about making decisions, I decided to share my thoughts with you.

A lot of projects fail, because the project leaders either refuse making decisions, or it takes them a very long time to make a decision. Why? I have to admit that this might be a central European "illness", but at least here in Austria it is often, because leaders prefer to wait until they know all the facts. Problem is, they will never know all the facts - and they don't realize it.

Another problem is that a lot of people are afraid of making decisions. I have seen this happen quite often and also with people with very different backgrounds (from software engineers turned project managers up to CEOs). What these people don't realize is that if they choose to not making a decision they already made an implicit decision: They have decided to leave the decision to other people, but it will be still them who will be held responsible.

Be willing to make decisions. That's the most important quality of a leader. General George S. Patton

In project leadership you will have to make a lot of decisions and you will have to make them every day, so better get used to it. From my experience it is important that every decision is really made rather than letting your project members make the decision implicitly for you. You have to hold the steering wheel, otherwise you risk that every member of your project goes into a different direction without even knowing it.

And try to make up your mind fast. This doesn't mean that you have to make every decision within a couple of minutes, but it also means that you should make it as soon as possible: Try to gather as many facts as you can, but set yourself a deadline. More often than not, the first time you have a good gut feeling about something, it won't change in the next few weeks. In addition, even the wrong decision is better than no decision, because a rudderless boat is going nowhere.