Controlling the Decision Pyramid

Controlling the Decision Pyramid

Decision pyramid – What is it?

The direction of a project is based on the decisions made by the team and its governance bodies during its life cycle. Getting these decisions right is key to the success of the project. Much focus is placed on project / programme board decision making and the leadership team will often spend a good proportion of its time in preparing content for status updates, escalations and options. However by far the greater number of decisions are made at task level and collectively these far outweigh in importance the decisions made at the top. This view of project decisions by volume is termed the decision pyramid.

So how are task level decisions controlled? There are three key ingredients and good managers will recognise them instantly as being integral to project success. They are:

1. Internal Communications

Regular and consistent communications from the leadership team to the team is key. Clear direction is provided at the outset and this is followed up by regular status updates and key messages. Likewise the team members need communications channels into management to seek guidance and to raise risks and issues.

2. Organisation Structure

The chain of command needs to be efficient and effective. Direction needs to be clear and visible at all levels and all members of the team need to know their responsibilities and how to communicate and escalate.

3. Business Case Objectives

Objectives are sometimes overlooked by management teams seeking a fast track to delivery. Overlooking objectives shows a lack of recognition of the value they have in ensuring a consistent direction for the project. A good project manager will point teams and workstream leads to these objectives, along with scope and the vision, as a way of answering clarification points without the need to escalate.


In summary, keep close to task level activities to ensure they remain aligned with the business case and the project plan. Ensure the whole team is aware and is lined up to the overall objectives and keep referring back to the project’s governance documentation throughout the delivery cycle.

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This blog was originally posted on 29th June 2015 and was updated on 7th September 2016.

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