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One of the more important roles of the project manager is making decisions and solving problems, so expect some PMP Certification Exam questions about your ability to do just that. The project manager’s inability to solve a problem or unwillingness to make a decision can have negative impacts on a project.

The Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct states that as project managers, you need to demonstrate transparency in our decision-making process.

Styles and influences

You will notice that decision-making and problem-solving styles are similar to conflict-resolution styles:

  • Command: Used when time is of the essence. This is similar to a forcing conflict-management style and used in the same types of situations.

  • Consultation: Used when you need input and information to make an informed decision. One person is still making the decision, but she seeks input prior to making the decision.

  • Consensus: Used when you need buy-in from the people involved. In some cases, the team will agree to a majority or plurality voting block to come to a decision.

  • Random: Like a coin toss. It is used when any solution is fine.

The style you use will depend upon the factors involved:

  • Time constraints: If time is of the essence, you might need to use a command or random method. Consultation and consensus take more time.

  • Trust: If you trust the people involved in making the decision, or if you need to build trust, you should use a consultation or consensus model.

  • Quality: Consensus decisions tend to lead to better decisions. Random decisions are least likely to lead to a good decision.

  • Acceptance: If you need to have acceptance, you are best served by using a consensus style. You might be able to use a consultative style and still gain acceptance.

Problem-solving model

You can use the following model for either solving a problem or making a decision.

  1. Define the problem.

    Clearly define the problem or decision. Many times, groups of people are unable to solve a problem because they aren’t clear what they are trying to solve, or they’re solving different problems from one another. You should be able to clearly articulate the problem or decision in a few concise sentences.

  2. Define solution criteria.

    Define the important factors in reaching a decision. Is time the driver? Is technical performance the more important element? You might want to set up a weighted scoring mechanism for procuring project scope.

  3. Brainstorm options.

    You and your team should consider various options as well as the implications and risk associated with each.

  4. Choose an option.

    Define the pros and cons of each option and apply the decision-making criteria to your alternatives. This should give you a decision.

  5. Evaluate the result.

    You can evaluate the effectiveness of your decision-making and problem-solving process at the end of the process. Several weeks later, you might want to reconvene and determine whether the decision or problem resolution was effective.


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