Decision Making Data That is Credible

Successful project managers have built a reputation for providing credible decision making data to decisions makers.  Building that kind of reputation takes two things. First the project manager must possess skill in creating and   project data and good techniques for forecasting with it. Decision MakingThe second is the courage and conviction do only high quality work.  The PM must be able to say to an high pressure executive, “At this point in the project planning, I do not have enough information to give you a project finish date you can rely on.”  This second item is the hardest.  But if you let people who outrank you intimidate into giving them information that is not reliable, your credibility will whither.

  • Status Reporting is the area where a project manager’s credibility is either enhanced or ruined.  If your status reports are overly optimistic and your forecasted results are better than what actually happens; you will  have no credibility with the executives. The better technique is to gather the data you need to make accurate projections of what’s going to happen. If the projection is bad news, you have the facts to communicate to the executives. If you’ve built a reputation for accuracy in your cost and time reporting, and deliver bad news when it is warranted, you will have higher credibility than the project manager who forecasts sunshine until it is too late to hide problems.
  • Change Requests  accurately assessing the impact of a requested change to the project schedule is a key moment of truth for project managers. If you gloss over the impact of a change request from a powerful person, your credibility is compromised when the change request damages the project.
  • Project Trade-offs  good project managers recognize that trade-offs are the best technique when dealing with the sponsor and stakeholders.  The project manager presents this analysis of a change request like this,” If we add the additional five day training class, the project finish date will be pushed out four days and the cost will be increased by $8,000.”  That is an example of a trade-off. The project manager described the “good stuff,” the training class the executive wanted as well as the “bad stuff,” the increased project duration and cost. There is no such thing as a “free lunch.” Every change has an impact the project manager must quantify. You must be able to use project software to model the impact of the change. Then you must be able to present information like this to the executive.
  • Cost-benefit Analysis  is typically used in the procurement process to compare purchasing the service with providing it internally. The project manager compares the benefits and costs mathematically to support a decision. This is another area where credibility is immensely effected by the accuracy of this data the project manager provide services
  • Project Plan Presentations is another opportunity for the project manager to establish his/her credibility. The data, projections and forecasts contained in the plan need to be accurately calculated.  Then  the PM needs to properly present the plan to give decision-makers the kind of data they need to determine whether or not to proceed with the project.
  • Project Charter this document gives an early summary of what the project will deliver, what it will cost and the resources it will consume.  The project manager needs to approach this document with the intention of surfacing any existing conflicts in the organization. He must not ignore or try to smooth over them.  Problems need to be solved early, when they’re small, rather than waiting until they explode later.
  • Critical Path Analysis is done with data from the project schedule after the longest path through the task network is identified. That path controls the duration of the project.  With is the PM can assess the impact of adding or removing resources from the project.  The project manager must use the scheduling software to assess the impact on the duration.