Why You Should Use a Project Management Decision Log

The project decision log houses each step project managers take. Consulting with it produces a causal chain of events performed by the entire team. As a result, the project sponsor can quickly view any of the critical decisions.

Decision logs also allow for a proper quality assurance process. Plus, it highlights all actions taken outside of the decision-making team. If all goes well, those team comms reports should lead to the final decision that wraps up the work.

Key takeaways

  • Causal Chain Documentation: A project management decision log documents every step and decision, creating a causal chain that allows stakeholders to quickly understand the critical decisions made during a project​​.
  • Tool for Optimal Results: The log is not just a record but a tool for quality assurance and learning, recording not only decisions but also the alternatives considered, thereby enabling continuous improvement for future projects​​.
  • Elements to Monitor: It’s important to monitor the decision-making process, including the reasoning behind decisions and the risk management discussions, to understand how a team reached an agreement and to assess the outcome of future work​​.
  • Dynamic Reference: The decision log is a dynamic document that grows with the project, serving as a reference point for team members to stay updated and informed, especially in complex operations with remote teams​​.

Definition and Documentation

The project management decision log carries all the info related to each of the project’s stages. It’s a document showing a clear thread tying all key decisions together. As such, it can quickly bring up to speed any onlookers or stakeholders.

Aside from the direction taken, the decision log also recorded the alternatives the team made. Hence, the decision log helps to hone in on any mistake in hindsight. Therefore, it’s a potent tool when shooting for optimal results with your next project.

Due to how the other alternatives also leave a mark, the decision log motivates all members to pitch in. After all, a healthy discussion is the best way to arrive at a decision. To put it all in order, the project manager often uses a decision log template.

This means that a decision log is a communication tool, too. In a way, it brings the project team and the steering committee together. Later, that conversation will show why a given course of action was approved and put into motion.

Key Elements to Keep an Eye On

Team members often present competing opinions on a given situation. Then, it’s up to the leaders to weigh out their reasoning and settle on a path. This deduction process gives an answer as to how the team agreed on something.

The risk log is also a part of this since risk management is a big part of any discussion. Such details shed light on how the team approaches an issue. As such, it allows stakeholders to assess the outcome of their future work as well.

Here’s how to put the project management decision log on a single page:

Highlight the Date of the Discussion

Ensure to put in the total meeting minutes and the exact date. This is useful for the other team members who weren’t able to attend.

Name the Decision-Making Team

Type in the names of each member who contributed to a key decision. This is essential for honoring the chain of command moving forward.

Reserve Extra Space for the Final Decision

Most projects change courses midway through. Still, the team follows a series of key decisions at any given point. Therefore, go in-depth when describing such a decision in your record. This will allow everyone to retrace their steps if needed.

Note the Team’s Decision-Making Process

The people involved have a lot of things to carefully ascertain before producing an action log. For example, trying to save resources or avoid a roadblock. Thus, they figure out how to deal with one obstacle at a time.

As a result, what worked once will probably do so the next time a similar issue appears. That log will also clearly explain why a team acted like that in the first place. Needless to say, questions arise when something goes wrong.

Attach the Related Files

Certain documentation can prove instrumental for the team to arrive at a decision. Hence, attaching proposals and references allows easy access to all important data. It also shows why the team decided in the manner they did.

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Main Benefits and Expectations

The decision log is short at the start of the project but keeps on expanding alongside the work. Thus, it serves as a constant reference point for all members. Therefore, anyone can raise a point when something moves off course.

Here are a few practical uses for a project management decision log:

Keep Everyone Up-to-Date

Not all decisive meetings will be a product of all project members. The same goes for the project sponsors. However, they all have access to the decision log and figure out how the team will proceed next.

Stay on Top of Things Even With Complex Operations

Some projects cover a large geographical area. As a result, many teams work remotely and can’t meet up often.

This is an issue when another team makes a decision that applies to them as well. For example, when the sales team has to check the decision log to deduce how to craft the next pitch.

Dealing With Hot Topics

Some project roadblocks often spur the same dilemmas and slow down the work. Thus, getting to a conclusion once will serve as an orientation point for the future. When a similar scenario appears, the team can review the decision log and possibly save time.

Record the Other Good Alternatives

Some problems have more than one optimal way to solve them. So, even if the team chose one of them, the other paths remain feasible too. Thus, if the conditions change soon after, the team can easily revert to some of those options instead.

Simplifying the Tech-Savvy and Advanced Solutions

When the engineering team arrives at a decision, their reasoning might comprise technical languages and signs. Yet, such a level of communication isn’t ideal for corporate meetings. Therefore, the decision log should pass on that data in a more universal manner.

A Practical Example of Common Pitfalls

Let’s assume that the team debates over using wood or steel as the frame for a small building. In the decision log, this entry will hold the codename “Big House Frame.” That project part will come with its own ID and a separate list of team members.

The issue will also revolve around the materials’ prices and possible safety issues. Thus, each option comes with a different set of pros and cons. The project management decision log notes all of that, as well as the input of any team member.

Once a decision forms, the manager should sign the document. Then, the stakeholders can follow the causal events and understand the context of each proposal. In case the team makes a mistake soon afterward, this system allows for proper damage control.

Ending Thoughts on Project Management Decision Log

Projects often span a significant amount of time. That means that the starting point and responsibilities may get blurred along the way. Plus, remote work can further complicate communication efforts. Even in today’s online world, projects require careful management outside the chat rooms.

The decision log makes any search for directions a simple task. It holds all the necessary data for a smooth workflow and can remind each person of their role. At the same time, it can inform the higher-up as to how the day-to-day operations develop.

If you liked this article about project management decision log, you should check out this article about challenges in project management.

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