70 PM NETWORK MARCH 2017 WWW.PMI.ORG
Robert Barger, PMP, is a program manager
and principal consultant at HMB Information
System Developers, Columbus, Ohio, USA.
On the Record
Help yourself defend decisions: Don’t skip documentation.
By Robert Barger, PMP
Questions about previously made decisions
can arise at any time in the life cycle of a project.
Often, these questions are prompted by new information that raises doubts about your previous
decisions. It is important to understand that your
decisions only seem justified if the factors used in
making those decisions remain in place. Once one
of those factors changes, the organization’s views
on your decision can change as well.
ANSWERS ON DEMAND
Documentation is the key to accurately remembering and defending your decisions when you are
challenged. By recording what resource provided
what information and when, you can quickly provide a summary of events to senior management.
This documentation could be in the form of
emails or meeting agendas, but I like to use a journaling process that is searchable by keyword so I
can quickly scan for specific subjects. I find journaling valuable because it gives me a quick succession of bullets that succinctly provides the facts
about who and what led to my decision, and why I
made it when I did.
It may feel like you are using this information to
point the finger at another employee or pass the
buck, but in reality, you are simply using factual
information to shed light on a decision and provide
context to the discussion. This information can
be useful in building a root cause analysis, or in
reviewing policies, systems or an employee’s skills
(or skills gaps).
When a senior manager asks why you made a
certain judgment call and you can provide thorough
details, the uncomfortable scrutiny quickly dissipates.
And there’s another benefit: You gain a reputation as
an organized employee who retains important information and quickly provides answers. PM
If asked about a decision we made two hours ago, most of us could quickly recall the factors that led us to it. When asked about a decision we made two years ago, few of us would be able to do
the same. That’s why documentation is vital for
I’ve seen project managers lose career momentum because they were unable to justify decisions
they had made on a past project. This career
fallout didn’t necessarily happen because the project managers made poor decisions. It happened
because they were merely unable to fully articulate
their rationale and detail the information they had
at their disposal at that time.
Getting It Done PROJECT MANAGEMENT IN ACTION