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A project manager needs to adapt to changing circumstances that arise during their project.

Project managers need to remain focused on project requirements and not be fixated on the design or implementation path. Cynthia Simmons is currently the Acting Deputy Center Director at Goddard Space Flight Center. In this video clip, Simmons talks about her work as the project manager for the ASTRO-H project. She explains the crucial project management skills of being rational and decisive when deciding on the best solution to use for a project.

Video key learning points:

  1. 1.

    A project manager receiving different technical solutions from their project team to solve a problem should use risk-informed decision-making to remove as much of the emotion from the decision process as possible.

  2. 2.

    To keep emotion out of the decision process, a project manager should request that each group with opposing ideas provide an outline of their solution, the risk associated with the solution, and a plan on how to move forward if issues occur with that solution. The project manager should ask questions concerning risk mitigation if something were to go wrong with each suggested solution.

  3. 3.

    After the project manager makes the decision, they need to communicate to the entire team why they went with that specific solution. A plan then needs to be developed in case something does go wrong with the solution that was chosen.

  4. 4.

    Periodic evaluation is needed following the decision to see if you might have learned something new or if anything with the project has changed.

  5. 5.

    A project manager needs self-awareness to make an adjustment to their decision if they have evaluated that it was the wrong decision for the project or the team and it did not bring about the desired outcomes.

  6. 6.

    You can learn to be decisive by working on a lot of projects and experiencing how decisive decision-making affects the project and team. Asking leaders and mentors how they make decisive decisions will also help you learn about the skill of being decisive during your career.


Related Resources 

NASA VPMC Full Session: 7 Habits of Highly Effective Project Managers

NPR 8000.4C, Agency Risk Management Procedural Requirements

NASA Risk-Informed Decision Making Handbook

Cynthia Simmons Bio

Hitomi Mission (formerly ASTRO-H)

APPEL KS Article: Mission Impossible: Getting a Project Back on Track

APPEL KS Article: Managing Stakeholder Styles to Optimize Decision Making

APPEL KS Courses: Decision Making and Risk Management


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