When I was a fledgling Project Manager, towards the end of one of my projects an artist was facing technical issues on his task and needed time to solve it. His task was part of a key delivery for an important milestone. My solution was to give the artist the extra days he asked for to figure things out. That was that.
This, of course, ended up being quite the blunder.
At work, we are inter-dependent; affecting and utilizing the resources from the same pool, be it finance, people, or time. So, when it comes to big decisions, we are well-trained to carefully consider any impacts it may have on other players in our ecosystem. However, the same is not always the case for the many little decisions we make daily; the micro-decisions.
People have come to expect rapid, if not immediate, responses and solutions, and tie this in with a notion of a high-performance standard. However, rushing to decide on the next steps in a reactionary mode rather than an informed one, can lead to bigger problems down the line. So, any shift to the plan, no matter how small it may present itself, needs a little more consideration.
Going back to the artist with technical issues; here are a few steps I should have taken before offering a "solution" to the proposed problem;
1) Reading the situation
Did I truly understand the reason the artist had fallen behind? Was it avoidable? What were the circumstances behind it?
2) Our development partner
Was there a testing scheduled or an internal milestone pending on the asset? Could I have brought this issue up with our development partner to gauge and discuss its importance and effect on the overall delivery?
3) Other projects
What would be the knock-on effect if I gave this artist extra days on this project? Was he booked out on another project afterward? It turned out his next project had even tighter deadlines and due to my decision, they were not able to work out contingency plans to adjust.
Did I do the admin? All the nitty-gritty stuff that is tedious but necessary to garner a full understanding and tracking of any project at any point. As I hadn't factored in these extra days it resulted in inaccurate resource tracking and costing sheets. This then, in turn, impaired the larger decision-making processes of my Senior Managers.
What would these extra days cost? Not considering how this seemingly small and easy decision could have resulted in a missed milestone and a payment delay from our development partners. That could have been even more disastrous if the company was relying on that payment for a crucial financial commitment.
From that one decision, a spiral of chaos emerged that could have been avoided. So, learning from my mistakes, since then when faced with leadership decisions I have an inner warning siren that triggers this mental checklist;
If the answer is ’N’ to any of the above, I know I need to do more digging. I won't take the plunge before making sure I am at the very least calculated risk. This is true for even small decisions, albeit quicker and less in-depth. Through my journey, I’ve come to realize that thoughtFULLness is the answer to micro-decision making.
This practice is a habit that needs nurturing as we each gain experience and competency. Keep in mind that we don’t know what we don’t know, so it’s important to stop and question ourselves, and the people around us, to chip away at our blind spots.
On the flip side, we can help our teams to adopt this wider awareness too by asking them questions that could help them think outside of their sphere. Prompting and then walking them through our thought processes will broaden their views, encourage confidence and independence, and foster a culture of critical thinkers.
ThoughtFULLness at its root is an exercise in empathy and it is important to know some facts before stepping in;
Ultimately, this should be a mental framework for ensuring you’ve thought of all surrounding factors and circumstances in making decisions that make the most sense for our team, project, or organization, even for micro-decision making.
What's your approach?