Decide – Assisted or Through Approach
Partha S. Ghose

Projects are a manifestation of decision issues. You try to take a stride forward and you are fraught with some kind of decision issue, making you uncomfortable if you are not in a position to take a correct decision that is logical and convincing to yourself, and is based on a set of reliable data. On the general perception of projects, as stated by Williams, T. & Samset, K. (2010), “You ask the archetypical ‘man in the street’ about them (projects), and it is clear that the reputation of projects and project management is that they are generally unsuccessful.” In my opinion, one reason for this poor image of this great profession is our inability to make correct and quick decisions.

As we all know, projects are temporary endeavors, and each project is unique with a start and an end. Therefore, they neither offer a chance to correct a faulty decision taken in the same project nor do they allow much time to change a decision already taken, without affecting any of the objectives. Sometimes such indecisions, or delayed or incorrect decisions, can be so devastating that it can cripple not only the project but also the enterprise.

The question that stems from this discussion is – do we have any option to avoid making decisions? The answer is ‘no’; making decisions or not is not an option for a project manager or a business enterprise because circumstances force that decisions be taken. We must make decisions since without them a project cannot move forward. We make decisions at every stage of a project and such decisions help in navigating the project to its objectives. The argument that follows is - why then do many projects fail to meet their objectives? I believe we often fail to make ‘intelligent’ decisions at the appropriate time. The keywords in

this statement are ‘intelligent decisions’ and ‘appropriate time.’ Both complement each other and the failure of one impacts the other.

George Pitagorsky, author and management coach, in an article, says, “Intelligence has two meanings. One is about the information required to make an effective decision. The other is the ability to acquire and use knowledge and experience. Both are required for effective decision making. Without the right information, even the most intelligent people will make poor decisions. Without the ability to acquire and synthesize the information at hand, decisions will be poor even with huge amounts of the right information.” He further adds, “A well-made decision is one that integrates all the right tools and techniques, makes use of the available knowledge, is based upon intelligent analysis, includes effective use of intuition and subjectivity, and engages the right people in the right way and at the right time.”

So, decisions must be intelligent, based on carefully acquired reliable data with appropriate normalization and analysis of that data, using the right tool to synthesize all the data and information liable to influence the decision, be it numerical or subjective like psychological or emotional or based on belief, culture, socio-economic condition, etc.

In this book, I have identified some important decision-related problems encountered in a complex project environment, which can be single or Multi-Criteria Decision Making (MCDM) problems under certainty, risks, and uncertainty encountered in large manufacturing projects. There are real-life examples and step-by-step solutions using operations research techniques suitable for those situations.

It is quite possible that even if one intends to make smart decisions, the decision-maker may find it difficult to do so in a complex pr oject environment where some of the criteria cannot be represented by crisp numerical values. There could be a set of subjective information that are intangible and qualitative, making those unsuitable for quantitative analytical methods. The book illustrates how to solve such problems with popular and common MCDM methodologies like AHP and TOPSIS.

Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound (SMART) decisions are a requirement of any project management methodology to minimize project mistakes and risks that at times may have irreversible negative consequences.

However, in today’s highly volatile business environment that leaves no room for mistakes, it is an absolute imperative for an organization to make smart decisions, particularly those related to investments, with the help of analytics and decision-making tools. They can make use of models and methodologies available in the market for quick and robust decision-making.

Partha S. Ghose, PMP, is the president and chief of projects at Kalyani Steels Limited. He is a post-graduate in engineering and technology from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, and has over four decades of rich experience managing mega, integrated projects and operations in metallurgical and other industry sectors.