“Inevitably we will make mistakes” – record key decisions

I’m working on a complex organisation design project.  This has necessitated a lot of stakeholder consultation – over 40 workshops completed so far, and a lot of other conversations and meetings.  We’ve traversed from understanding the customer, reviewing current state, and defining how solutions need to change, to identifying what drives workload.  We’re now exploring options for the future state operating model.

When preparing for a design workshop this week I was speaking with a senior manager who has led a new shared services function in the organisation for the past two years, so has relevant experience to draw upon.  As our discussion progressed he observed “inevitably, we will make mistakes” in this project.  Acknowledging this means we can prepare for the need to make informed adjustments in the future.  One way we can do this is to record key decisions.

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Harold Jarche suggests that recording decisions should be normal practice, and that it helps to build institutional memory.  The project I am working on is an excellent example of the value of recording key decisions, including date that decision was made, who made it, alternatives considered and why one option was chosen over others.  To assist with consistency in decision-making we are also defining design principles and criteria to review alternate operating models.  We recently set up a project decision log to record decisions, along with these principles and criteria.  Tracking version history of principles and criteria in the log will provide the ability to correlate decisions with the principles and criteria in use at the time.

Recording decisions will help the project team to explain rationale for recommendations consistently to stakeholders, Steering Committee and others who need to approve deliverables.  It will also ensure that “when” a need is identified in the future to fine-tune the operating model to address those “inevitable” mistakes that people will be able to review the original decisions and make better informed choices about changes.