13 October 2008

Information, decision rights and effective project management

HBR's article on Strategy Execution (Neilson et al, June 08) talks about the relative effectiveness of various strategic approaches to change and finds information flows and decision rights to be the key areas to address.

Let's take a quick look at how this principle has been applied in project management.

Firstly we have the issue of responsibility.  This is linked to definitions of success.

I often suggest here that poor project leaders call success delivering to contract while excellent project leaders deliver outcomes that make their customers happy.  Life isn't as simple as that, but this idea can help you work out what boundaries you should set for yourself around your responsibilities and authorities.

In most instances  project leaders are expetcted to make a few waves as they deliver their project.  Breaking conventions and lines of command is often acceptable.

You as the project leader have to be willing to make these waves though.  And even though others may have a different idea of where your boundaries are, you should know that your boundaries are linked to whatever it is goiung to take to deliver the project results (ethically and sensibly.)

So you are going to need to take responsibility for project outcomes, not processes.

This means that you will need to seek out the appropriate information to make good decisions.  In many organsiations information is only traded for something of value or even kept secret.  You need to overcome these barriers using your team and the project mangager's toolkit (check the the social, cultural and political sections.)

Don't wait for information to come to you.  Go get it.

And thirdly there is enabling your team.  You need to give them the room and authority to make decicions appropriate to the problems and opportunities taht are going to present themselevs along the way.  If you can hand over decicion making at this level your whole team will increase quality, velocity and motivation. If you can do this, everyone wins.

Go check out the article if you want the broader view, or feel free to comment on my thoughts above.

Picture by njscott-H :), CC @ Flickr.


  1. Anonymous8:54 pm

    Hi Craig,

    I cannot agree more with the importance of getting the right information at the right time and using that information to drive the project outcomes.

    The difficulty is of course getting the right information at the right time, not just to the project manager but to all of the stakeholders on the project. This is also essential to enable the team. Without the right information they will be more likely to make the wrong decisions.

    A central project repository or database that is shared by all participants is key to allowing this information flow and collaboration.

  2. Anonymous5:18 pm


    Many modern collaboration tools help a lot.

    Even better in my opinion is a culture of open and constant communication.

    People disparage meetings, but the information has to keep flowing, so if the team is large and complex it usually means hiring people specifically for that role.

    That's one of my key problems today!

  3. Anonymous8:09 am

    Hi Craig, Please edit your articles. There is some good content in this article as well as others. Unfortunately, there are several spelling errors in each article. I'm not going to share your articles with my BA or PM colleagues because the spelling errors look unprofessional.

    Thanks for the postings, but please ensure they are checked for correct spelling.

  4. THanks guys for the comments.

    And sorry Paul for the typos.

    I want to defend the lack of perfection - blogging/itertive/sufficiency, etc.

    But the bottom line is a lack of spellchecker in the blogging tool :( and the late hour I usually hack this stuff out.

    Apologies in advance for further typos.

    You are free to take and edit any content you want (with attribution of course.)


  5. Hi Craig,

    Thanks for the reply and I'll be able to handle the occasional spelling errors.

    Two last suggestions for you though:
    1) Use Firefox. It's got a built-in spell checker that checks spelling for all text boxes. As a poor speller myself, this is a godsend.

    2) There is a plugin for IE. I haven't used it, so I can't recommend it. It's free for personal use and $15 for commercial use.

    Thanks again for the blog. There's great content in here!