Why There’s No Such Thing as a Bad Decision

Management – and project management – is a series of small (and sometimes big) decisions.

At work recently I had cause to question one of my decisions. I had made a decision that affected other people (as most decisions do). I communicated the decision, replanned accordingly and updated my risk log. I documented the decision on my decision log template.

Then I got some more information.

It wasn’t information that fundamentally made my decision wrong. However, it did make it slightly less black and white. I started to question whether I had done the right thing.

I thought I needed some help making better decisions.

An older (and wiser) colleague told me something that made me realise I had absolutely made the right choice. “There’s no such thing as a bad decision,” he said.

That sounded rather flippant to me, so we discussed it further.

If you make a good decision, all is well.

If you make a ‘bad’ decision, you learn from it.

Say that you decide to hold negotiations with one supplier. You plan to visit their offices and attend a presentation for their services but later you realise you don’t want to use them after all. It’s too late to back out of their presentation so you maintain the meeting and attend their pitch anyway. Is that a bad decision?

Your time would be better spent in the procurement process for another vendor. However, by attending the presentation you get to learn about that vendor that you don’t want to use, which could be interesting. You get to visit some other offices. It’s always nice to nose around where someone else works – every cloud has a silver lining and all that.

Even a ‘bad’ decision stops inertia and moves things forward. You can always revise your decision later.

So, all decisions are good. Or, if you can’t subscribe to the ‘all decisions are good’ philosophy, all decisions have elements of goodness in them.

Failure to decide means failure to act

What is bad is making no decision. This leaves the project team in limbo. They don’t know what is going on or what direction they should be going in. Inertia sets in. Nothing is clear and the project cannot move forward.

Read next: Making decisions as a group

Putting world politics and economic policy aside, in project management terms I’m convinced that there is no such thing as a bad decision. What decision are you going to make today?