Making Quick Fire Decisions On Urgent Projects

Paul Naybour

When tasked with making decisions, it’s important to be able to think on your feet, but when the pressure is really on, do you have the skills to make double quick decisions about your projects?

It happens, sometimes more often than we like, but there will be times when you need to make a decision and quickly. Aware that every decision has consequences, just how do you make quick-fire decisions that work?

There are many different analyses and processes when it comes to decision-making. Most depend on you having time to consider your response. But when time is not on your side, making a decision ‘on the hoof’ is a dangerous place to be.

In project management we often talk of initiative as well as being intuitive, understanding where and when bottlenecks could occur. Try as we might, there are times when every project manager is faced with an unforeseen dilemma.

So how do you make rapid decisions that are good decisions?

Recognise if you are stuck in the ‘last-minute decision’ loop

Here’s what happens – someone decides that they need a decision and they need it now. Time is of the essence which places pressure on every part of the decision-making process. Your team are aware there is an issue and so they can only proceed so far with the work that they are carrying out.

Eventually, everything slows to a point as they wait for the decision. Will it mean big changes? Will work have to be undone?

When last minute decisions are a regular occurrence there can be a feeling that the project is out of control.

Stop. Break the cycle and use a different tactic instead.

Breaking the cycle – consider the options

1 Recognise there is a difference between ‘important’ and ‘urgent’

You’ve been told it is important and/or urgent. You need to take the step back approach and consider whether this is the case or not – and which is it: important or urgent?

  • Important is how someone feels about a task, problem or an issue – it’s important that we deal with this issue now!
  • Urgent is driven by a deadline or another external factor – we need to decide what fixings to use because the products must be ordered by 5 pm today.

If something is deemed important you need to research, conceptualise and plan – in other words, think through all aspects and consequences of a decision.

To do this, you need a clear understanding of the problem and the effect it could have on the project.

Urgent means that external factors have changed and with a deadline pushing for a decision, you need to look at the picture from a broad perspective. What opportunities is this problem offering, rather than how can I make it go away?

2 Taking the heat out of the decision process

Taking a step back is an excellent idea when you have made the decision that the gravity of the situation is neither urgent nor important. Monitoring is key to decision making, understanding what is happening as part of your project all of the time means you can identify when things are starting to go off-track.

Making a decision when there are constraints and pressures is a tough ask, but one that you can deal with, especially with a calm approach.

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