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Making effective decisions….rapidly.

By Craig Janssen

Projects center around decisions–which is fairly simple when there is only one person making decisions; but in the case of complex building projects there are thousands of decisions to be made by groups of people.

We have found in our experience, that the best decisions are made when there is a common mission and vision clearly communicated.  And when the team making those decisions is committed to that mission.

When objectives are aligned, then every project decision–no matter who is making it–will result in a project that fulfills its purpose.  This is not only true of the project itself, but also the process. A team of people committed to a common mission will focus all of their efforts and energies to get to the same place resulting in an effective process.  It isn’t that the process is without conflict, but conflict in the context of a clear mission is resolvable.

Building a team that can get to good decisions quickly and lead others in that process is  not only desirable, but it is also achievable.

Patrick Lencioni does a great job of capturing how to build cohesive teams in his book, The Advantage.  He tackles the behaviors such as building trust, mastering conflict, achieving commitment, embracing accountability and focusing on results.  He also talks about the things that keep organizations from building healthy teams such as ignoring its importance, executives being addicted to their own busyness and measuring the wrong things.

The most successful projects start with trust-based teams committed to a common mission.  When that is the case, it almost doesn’t matter what you build.  What the team decides to do together will be exponentially better than anything one person could accomplish alone.

While I have seen many wonderful project successes in my career, I’ve also seen failures.

This is usually due to cost or budget overruns, schedule delays, or simply missed expectations by all parties.

While there were typically a variety of causes contributing to the failure, there are patterns of difference in successful projects and projects that went off the rails, and nearly all of it related to the decision making processes.

Successful projects had alignment between the needs of the project and the people leading the process. Unsuccessful projects had leadership (both client and design/construction) with conflicting interests who revisited decisions to lobby for their own position.

Successful projects had teams that could process information quickly and make decisions with confidence. Unsuccessful projects spent an unusual amount of time evaluating and deliberating making decisions only on pressure of deadlines.

Successful projects set mission-based parameters in the beginning and based every decision on that mission. Unsuccessful projects set preference-driven design directives and based their decisions on a pre-visualized end-result.

The lessons have been clear: successful teams made great decisions—but seldom due to better or more information, money, skills or time. They simply had better decision-making processes.

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