“Why did you decide to take THAT action?”

Home The Savvy PM Blog “Why did you decide to take THAT action?”

102 I have found in life that there is a singularly bad or unwise answer to the title question.

Delving deeper

As a project manager, when faced with a project decision, what is the first step that should be taken?  The first thought should be toward doing your homework.  Investigate the impact of that decision on the project.  What is the impact if no decision is made?  What if you choose Door No. 1?  What’s the anticipated result if you choose Door No. 2?  How many doors (alternatives) exist?

Once you are equipped with the research, then you can decide based on the facts and feelings at that time.

Looking back

OK, the decision has been made.  Time passes.  It may prove to be a great decision!  Or, it may turn out that another alternative was the glaring correct choice.  The Monday morning quarterbacks will always point out what decision you should have made, even if your decision turned out wonderfully.

“Why did you decide to take that action?”

If you made a great decision, you may be asked the above question to help others learn about your decision process.  What “best practices” can be gleaned from your approach that will benefit the organization in making wonderful decisions in the future?

If your decision turned out to be not so great, you may be asked the question to help garner “lessons learned,” or how not to make a decision in the future.  I am reminded of a parent’s question to a child after a mishap, “WHAT were you thinking?!”

In either case, the question prompts you to think back…  What did your research at the time indicate? Even though the information may turn out to have been flawed, it was still the basis of your decision at that time.  The defensive phrase “Hindsight is 20/20” supports your poor decision; you had to make the decision solely based on the information at hand.  Sure, in hindsight, you have more information than you did at the time, and you would probably have made a different decision then if you had been armed with the information of today.  (Huummm…     In my mind, I can hear Bob Seger singing “I wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then,”  but that’s an entirely different thought train!)

I was on campus at Georgia Tech in Atlanta this autumn at a Yellow Jacket football game.  I noticed a student wearing a tee-shirt that bore only the words, “Foresee Hindsight.”  What an awesome concept!  As project managers, we are asked almost every day about two things – the current status of our projects, and the project forecasts of budget and schedule.  You would be renowned as the greatest project manager EVER if you could just “Foresee Hindsight!”

Forecasting.  I am forecasting right now that my new few posts are going to deal with forecasting.  I want to look further into an Earned Value Management term called Estimate At Complete (EAC).  There are over 25 different documented ways to derive the EAC forecast.  For the PMP® Exam candidate, there are four important approaches to EAC.  These will be my focus in the immediate future.

Oh, yeah…  The singularly bad answer to “Why did you decide to take that action?”  Probably the most unwise response to this question is, “I don’t know.”

Always do your homework!