Agile project management is the agile (flexible) way of organizing complex and long-term development projects. How can you repulse with smart project management the R&D costs? How does sustainability planning work? Peter Haring shares his knowledge of managing projects in the food industry.
Elements of Decision Quality
We need to understand that there are more aspects to the decision than the analysis itself. The picture is that of a chain, denoting that the quality of the decision is only as strong as it’s weakest link. The elements are also circular denoting that the process can be iterative, i.e when analysing the options, other options may arise which then requires new information to be collected, etc. Our objective is to strengthen the various links of the chain, to ensure that the resulting decision is made on solid grounds.
The six elements of decision quality
The following elements are the basics of the decision making toolkit.
Creative, Doable Alternatives: Creative; Doable; Significantly different; Comprehensive; Compelling. Failure modes: Only one alternative; Too narrow a scope resulting in missing a great alternative; Considering “not doable” alternatives.
Meaningful, Reliable Information: Knowing what’s important; Having it correct and explicit; Based on appropriate facts; Including uncertainty. Failure modes: Neglecting to obtain important information; Ignoring uncertainty; Missing interdependencies; Focusing on what we know, not what’s important.
Clear Decision Criteria and Trade-Offs: The explicit statement of our wants in terms of decision criteria; The trade-offs among the decision criteria are clearly understood. Failure modes: Neglecting a key constituency; Insufficient clarity on trade-offs; Ignoring “intangibles”; Double counting risk.
Logically Correct Reasoning: The reasoning process that converts the inputs into a clear choice; The development of the consequences of the alternatives in terms of the decision criteria; Probabilistic and sensitivity analysis; Value of information & control. Failure modes: ‘Sunk cost’ thinking; Not considering ‘if we don’t’; Evaluating only the chosen alternative; Relying only on deterministic cases; Ignoring dependencies.
Commitment to Action: Gaining motivation and commitment to action from necessary individuals. Failure modes: Poor quality in other elements; Continual reworking of a decision; Insufficient support; Organisational infrastructure kills it; Lack of motivation.
How to use the decision making toolkit
Good decision making requires overcoming organisational and analytical complexities. Get participants to suggest analytic complexities and organisational complexities. Then introduce “common sense” and DA as “casual” and “conscious” approaches.
When organisational complexity is low (i.e. we are clear about what the right frame is and all stakeholders are aligned) but there is a high degree of analytical complexity we need to be rigorous in our probabilistic analysis. When the organisational complexity is high we need to focus on establishing the right frame and structure to the problem before we launch into analysis.
The full toolkit may be required if problem is High-High. If only analytical tools are used – you get the right answer but nobody cares. If only Facilitation tools or Framing and Structuring tools are used – you get alignment around nonsense. Of course, if both organisational and analytical complexity is low we don’t need anything, we just decide NOW!
If the problem/decision is in the mid ground, medium complexity problems, it may be good enough to suggest using the Decision Quality checklist.
For each project we determine the chance of success. We use the following steps:
Traditionally in the start-up phase, the projects were boarded up in terms of budgets, hours needed, processing times, expected revenue, et cetera. Within the Agile approach the potential project costs and revenues are more flexible visualised. In the chart below is an example of the recent update of the development portfolio.
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