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The six headed uncertainty Hydra

Project closure can be bittersweet. A long and perhaps arduous endeavor has been completed, which is very satisfying.

The bitterness may come from the fact that you’ve already started your next assignment(s) and are in the throes of simultaneously conducting a post mortem and lessons learned. Many project managers, present company included … struggle, or used to struggle with the task of rapidly assembling a comprehensive project re-cap. The least of these tasks certainly not being recalling key project decisions, their exact timing, strategic implications, who sat at the decision table and the specifics of their decision making authority of each.

What if there were a guiding document that outlined parties and the specifics of their decision making authority as well as an associated chronological register of their key project decisions? Enter the Key Decision Matrix/Record! This tool can reside on two spreadsheet tabs, in a database, or via other automation available to the project team.

Why do I need this tool? Well, without it, you’re at Risk of not surviving a battle with the six-headed uncertainty Hydra. The six headed what, you ask? The six headed uncertainty Hydra is the crazed beast that charges at you during random project phases, especially closure, its multiple heads hungrily snapping at you for details that may or may not be buried in meeting minutes, multiple email correspondences, action item lists, etc. What decisions were made, and when? Why were these decisions made and what options were considered? What are the implications to adjacent projects and who was appointed to make these decisions?

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OK, let’s review the details of each section.

The Key Decision Matrix/Record is comprised of the following elements:

1. A list of Project Key Decision makers and the specifics of their decision making authority.

There are no rabbits in hats, here … and this is intended to be exactly as stated. From experience, you may encounter some resistance in documenting and formalizing this but it pays off in the end. Part of the reason for this is that for some reason, folks are somewhat hesitant to document specifics regarding decision making authority. This exercise also almost always promises to be eye opening for the PM, as they either end up having much more, or less “stated authority” than previously surmised.

2. An explanation if each Key Decision

This is the essential detail regarding the decision in question. Pay special attention to technical details if necessary as the more complete the explanation the better (multiple personnel may need to reference this document).

3. Specific dates and phases of occurrence

Making note of specific dates when key decisions were made lends historical significance to project milestones and will greatly assist in re-constructing timelines (if required) at a later date.

4. Why the Key decision was made and options considered, if any?

While each element of the decision record is important, capturing specifics regarding options considered, as well as why the final decision (option) was chosen will be particularly beneficial reference points.

5. Parties Privy to the decision

Number one, above, documents Project Key Decision makers and the specifics of their decision making authority. This section, however, specifically denotes which parties participated in and made each particular decision.

6. Decision Implications

The importance of this section is to document integration points, decision implications and how your project’s key decisions may affect neighboring projects.

Armed with this guiding document, facing and slaying the six headed uncertainty Hydra will require no more than referencing your Key Decision Matrix/Record. Furthermore, completing Post Mortem and Lessons Learned exercises will also be a snap.

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