Monday, July 9, 2007

The Advantages of A Continuous Decision Making Cycle in Project Management

In case you haven’t noticed, the volume, speed, and quality of information you need to deliver successful projects continues to increase across all three dimensions. Why is it then that many of our projects are organized and managed as if they are static monoliths instead of the organic entities that they are? In any large project the risks of delivering tomorrow what you needed yesterday is significant. The speed of change in today’s business world often times means that by the time you finish a project the environment and needs that originally justified it have changed. If you have not adapted the project to the new needs as they evolve, then you will at best strand some portion of your investment at project completion. If it is a large project then you can count on the stranded portion being large as well (there’s that pesky “Law of Large Numbers” again!).

One management model that seeks to overcome this dilemma is Continuous Decision-Oriented Governance. In this model critical strategic issues are identified and continuously checked. Key project executives are responsible for conducting due diligence and making top level decisions that redirect the project while it is in progress. Best implemented with lean management teams, the executive team’s focus is on the “next” major issue/milestone, having made the mid-course corrections needed for the last and leaving tactical staff to implement those. Think of it as Just In Time decision making for the project process, but with the difference that it extends throughout the life of the project, not just the pre-construction or pre-implementation phase. In the end, this methodology can lead to an end result that supports current business needs and strategies instead of ones that are outdated at project completion.

The critical elements in this concept are information, analysis, and data-based decision making. It is a requirement that the proper tools (strategic plans, financial data, able analysis, partnered executives, etc.) be fully integrated and aligned in this approach. It puts a maximum premium on agile execution, resulting in a project that is managed from a business perspective, not a bricks and mortar perspective.

Finally, lest anyone think this sounds like a recipe for chaos and project anarchy, let me set the boundaries. This governance model is intended to work within the framework of well thought out project objectives and must continually adhere to those. The framework, however, should provide flexibility to allow the executive team leading the project room to maneuver, in order to adjust to changing business needs and take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves.

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