Posted by Andrew VanderPloeg
There are two ways to approach decision-making in any project. The first is to go by the gut instincts of the people involved in the management and execution of the project (that instinct being based on experience). The second is to set really specific goals.
I want to deal with these two approaches in two separate posts, so today I'll address the idea of decision-making by gut and then tomorrow, I'll expand on the idea of goal-setting.
Often, we see organizations making decisions based solely on the experience and opinion of the people involved in the management and execution of the project. In many cases, this approach is necessary and it can lead to the successful completion of the project. The reason this approach might be necessary is that the alternative (goal-setting through research) is either too expensive or time consuming.
But this approach also has weaknesses to it.
The first risk to a gut-instinct method of decision-making is that it is possible that you don't have people with the right experience and intuition to go on gut. Often, these are people who are part of the organization who have some experience in the area of the project being worked on, but aren't really well-versed or current in that area (web design and development are great examples of this). These people, although well intentioned and potentially able to stumble onto the right solution, don't have what you need in order to give any assurance of success on the project, but they get called on because they are in-house (translated “free”) and available.
The other risk is that you see in decision-making by gut is that quite simply, your gut is wrong. Even the most experienced individuals will guess wrong from time-to-time. While this risk might be minimized proportionate to the person's years of experience and can also be minimized by combining their opinion with that of a few others with experience, the risk to your project remains real and relevant.
So, as you can see, although many organizations take this approach to decision-making, there are risks involved which at the very least, warrant identification and consideration. In a perfect world, our decisions wouldn't just be based on gut, they'd combine gut instinct with clear and effective goal-setting...but more on that tomorrow.