Be a special projects hero

Fame. We all want to live forever.  But it’s best if we do that by making a real difference in something that matters.

SpecialProjects graphic4

Many successful professionals are tapped to be members of a “Special Project” team at some point in their career.  The rationale for this selection may be their deep expertise concerning a technical aspect of the project or their demonstrated ability as innovators who bring fresh ideas to tired business problems.  Savvy organizations also include junior team members on special projects to stimulate their professional growth.

So you have found yourself appointed to the TransformX team.   What can you do to make a difference as a team member, maximize team results and also your personal growth from this experience?

Start by helping the team “frame” the problem/challenge they are facing as a set of explicit decisions, i.e. generate a Top 10 Decisions List or a Decision Breakdown Structure (DBS).  If your organization has a set of proven decision patterns, that’s a fairly simple exercise of:

  • Identifying the appropriate decision pattern to apply to the project at hand (e.g. Product Design vs. Process/Capability Design vs. Enterprise Strategy).
  • Leading a Decision Blitz to capture incumbent (AS-IS, “Do nothing”) alternatives for each decision in the pattern.
  • Identifying open decisions or those that should be revisited to provide a more innovative solution to the project’s challenge.
  • Prioritizing these open decisions and assigning analysis responsibility and resources to them.
  • Deploying a common process/toolset to capture these decisions and the analysis that informs them.

If you lack a decision pattern to help you with this framing process or the collaboration tools to manage these decisions, Decision Driven® Solutions can help fill that gap.

Use the Top 10 Decisions List or DBS as the focal point for your team meetings.  Focus on one decision at a time and have the decision owner share the current status of their analysis.  Don’t nitpick the details, but ask process questions such as:

  • Which stakeholders have provided inputs to your evaluation criteria?
  • How did you develop the alternatives for this decision?  What could you do to widen the range of solutions being evaluated?
  • Which criteria are the discriminators between the top solutions?  How much confidence do you have in your performance estimates for these criteria?
  • What assumptions are buried in your judgments?  How will we test these assumptions before we “bet the farm” on your recommended solution?
  • How could your leading alternative fail? How else? How will you mitigate that risk?
  • What constraints does your recommended solution impose on the rest of the project’s decisions?

Avoid hijacking someone else’s decision and promoting your own “pet” alternatives.  Nobody likes a know-it-all.

Don’t be surprised if your list of decisions grows and evolves as you work through the first few layers of your problem.  Celebrate team progress as decisions are “closed” to build a sense of momentum.  But also iterate as needed when assumptions don’t pan out and the “house of cards” begins to crumble.

Periodically review the entire decision set to keep your eye on the big picture.   It’s easy to get lost in the details of a specific choice and miss the interactions between them.

At the end of the project, don’t forget to refine your decision patterns by harvesting lessons learned.

The best way to be a special projects hero is to keep your eye on the decisions that create the value in the project.  Contribute to high-quality, focused thinking and your fame will grow with your skills.



About decisiondriven

Innovator in Decision Management, Systems Thinking and System Engineering methods and tools
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