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Episode 414: How To Make Better Choices For Your Projects (Free)

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Andy and Cornelius
Andy Kaufmann and Cornelius Fichtner

As leaders of teams and projects, we regularly face choices and decisions that have downstream consequences.

Learn why the familiar pros-and-cons approach seems to make sense—but is profoundly flawed, and how our biases influence the options we consider and the choices we make. No technique can guarantee great decisions every time, but you will leave this session with practical ideas and tools to make better choices for you, your team, and your projects.

This interview with Andy Kaufmann (LinkedIn Profile) was recorded at the invigorating Project Management Institute (PMI)® Global Conference 2017 in Chicago, Illinois.

In the interview, we identify the steps in making better decisions based on a well-researched model that can be applied personally and professionally. We also explain how biases influence decisions and how to address those biases to make better decisions.

We’ll talk about how to execute your projects and grow your project management skills all while setting your business and IT customers up for success. We'll see how organizations without a PMO can be effective by tracking basic metrics, and how key templates in your project management toolbox will help your project managers be effective.

Episode Transcript

Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

Podcast Introduction

Andy Kaufmann:   In this episode of the Project Management Podcast™, I’ll show you how to make better decisions based on a well-researched model that can be applied personally and professionally.

Podcast Interview

Cornelius Fichtner:   Hello and welcome to the Project Management Podcast™ at www.pm-podcast.com. I am Cornelius Fichtner. We are coming to you live from the invigorating 2017 PMI® Global Conference in Chicago and with me sitting here in Room 185-A is Andy Kaufmann. Hello Andy!  

Andy Kaufmann:   Hello, Cornelius. It’s great to see you.   

Cornelius Fichtner:   It is! This is the first time. How many years have we known each other? I don’t know. It’s the first time we’re meeting in person.

Andy Kaufmann:   It’s a pleasure for me. It is.

Cornelius Fichtner:   So the audience has just left. We are in a completely empty room but when I came in about ten minutes before everything ended, this place was packed—literally. From the angle where I was standing, I started counting empty seats, I was able to count four.

Andy Kaufmann:   Is that right? Yeah.

Cornelius Fichtner:   They were sitting like sardines packed into here. Congratulations on a successful presentation at the Global Conference.

Andy Kaufmann:   Thank you. It’s an honor even to have a presentation selected for this sort of thing. There are great sessions all over the place but this group in particular seemed hungry for practical ideas and I think that’s true in the Congress. Don’t give us theory—tell us how to do this.

Cornelius Fichtner:   Yeah.

Andy Kaufmann:   And decision-making—you and I are making choices all the time, [offer decisions] I would say.

Cornelius Fichtner:   How was the energy for you up here as a presenter?

Andy Kaufmann:   It was really good in that the last session of the day can sometimes be very difficult because people have—some of them travelled so there’s their time zone so my goal was to keep it very interactive and so when they are talking, that usually adds some energy to it and so it was very interactive session. It was fun.

Cornelius Fichtner:   You’re the only one that stands between them and the martini, right?

Andy Kaufmann:   [laughs] Right. So get done early too. Yeah, exactly.

Cornelius Fichtner:   OK. Your presentation is titled “How to Make Better Choices for You, Your Team and your Project”. However, everything that I know about you screams leadership. How did you go from leadership to this topic—How to Make Better Choices for You, Your Team and Your Project. What’s your interest here?

Andy Kaufmann:   It’s a great point. You know a lot of times there’s a lot of different definitions of leadership but one of them is—here’s where we’re aiming, this is where we’re trying to go and this is how we’re going to get there but it’s not just some sort of sterile, sort of, this is where we’re going to go there, decisions all along the way and so I’ve had over 250 coaching clients and one of the things I find is that what they are looking for helps sometimes.

I’m trying to say, “Do I do this? Or do I do this?” Career-wise, do I do this? Do I do this? My team—so leaders are faced with decisions all the time. And so it was one of those areas that, to tell you quite frankly, Cornelius, I don’t feel like I was born to be this unbelievably bold kind of a leader so, a decision maker. I thought I needed help and so it’s a scenario that I knew people need help, I needed help and so that was kind of a like, let’s go off and research this and see if I can make better decisions as a result of it.

Cornelius FIchtner:   Alright. Talk to me about a typical decision-making process. How does that work?

Andy Kaufmann:   Yeah, yeah. So I’d just start the discussion off with “How do you do it?” and inevitably, Cornelius, some will go: “Pros and cons”.

Cornelius Fichtner:   Yeah.   

Andy Kaufmann:   And it’s such a typical thing but it’s so weak. Because maybe there are three pros and I really want those. And there’s three cons but one of them is that. You know I mean, the weight is not equal and so it’s often used or sometimes people go, “Well you know Cornelius, what I do is I analyze all the options and I weigh them but the truth is…”—one guy even said during the session today—he goes, “You know, I talk to everybody and I do what I want to do myself”. [laughs together] I applauded it. We, as a group applauded it for his honesty because we wouldn’t say that or admit it but sometimes it’s what we—you know—do.

So, it’s a decision unless it would be some typical ways. I think we fancy ourselves as more objective about it but there’s not a whole lot of research to back that up. They were effective.

Cornelius Fichtner:   OK. You had a few steps that you went through in your presentation there. 1. You encounter a choice; 2. You analyze your options; 3. You make a choice; and then 4. You live with the consequence.

Andy Kaufmann:   Right.

Cornelius Fichtner:   How did you come up with those four, sort of, steps?

Andy Kaufmann:   Yeah. I’d like to say it was brilliance on my part but that was heavily informed by Chip and Dan Heath and they’ve got a book called “Decisive” and if anybody’s looking for a good book on decision-making. What I like about their book is it’s well-researched, evidence-based but very practical.  Because there’s a lot of textbook source stuff on decision-making that I—like MBA sort of an analytical stuff but when it comes to how do you do it, these guys, that was their model.

Cornelius Fichtner:   OK. Is this—when you say—is this normally what we do when we make good decisions?   

Andy Kaufmann:   That’s a good point.

Cornelius Fichtner:   Or what we should be doing?

Andy Kaufmann:   It’s what—I would say, we would like to think we do it except for the last step—“prepare to be wrong”. I think a lot of times we don’t do that last step. We say if the choice is obvious that we have to make one and we think we analyze them but there’s some weaknesses to how we do it, we make the choice, that’s pretty obvious, but that last step of “prepare to be wrong”, is one I think that’s easy to miss.

Cornelius Fichtner:   You also talked about the villains of decision- making, who are they? Or what are they?

Andy Kaufmann:   Yeah. So, the first one is narrow-framing. It’s just we don’t look at enough options. We just don’t look at enough options. There are more options out there than what we have and there’s things like short-term emotion that we just get too swayed by the emotion of the moment when we react instead of we respond. There’s over-confidence. I’ve made a bad decision because I was over-confident. Those are some of the examples of some of the things that get in the way.

Cornelius Fichtner:   Which one is your personal nemesis out of those?

Above are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only. Please subscribe to our Premium Podcast to receive a PDF transcript.

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