Critical Thinking in Project Management

Whether you passed your Project Management Professional (PMP) certification exam or not, as a project manager you are constantly making decisions and probably face an onslaught of demands in all directions. Not everyone excels in critical thinking.  It can be tricky and it is definitely a skill that is developed and honed by practice, not through exams.

Critical thinking is used to anticipate problems, plan, resolve issues, assess new situations and to ensure that your project team members know what to do. Being able to focus and logically sort through the clutter and make quick, well-thought out decisions is the key to your success and that of your projects.

With time, insight and lots of practice critical thinking starts to become second nature.  With that comes increased speed, as well as confidence. If you feel you are lacking and could use some assistance in this area here are five quick tips on some key areas that you should focus on for improving your daily routine:

1. Have an Open Perspective

Take the time to reflect on the situation and analyze all sides carefully.  Don’t jump to conclusions too quickly or make rash decisions.  Be impartial and remove any existing biases that you many have.  These can easily hamper critical thinking by altering your perspective in the wrong direction.  Keep an open perspective but don’t be too easily swayed either.

2. Keep Focused and Avoid Getting Distracted

You can not avoid distractions, but you can avoid getting distracted by them.  Keep focused on the task at hand, and the bigger picture.  Don’t get caught up in the little details and putting out fires.  This can easily lead you down the path of fire fighting and therefore taking your eyes off the future.

3. Ask Questions and Provoke Debate

It isn’t easy to be the one always asking the questions.  However, sometimes others don’t realize they aren’t providing the critical information that you need.  Communication isn’t always forthcoming.  It is your job to probe and get the answers you need.  The key to critical thinking is to be able to gather all the relevant information and data in order to properly analyze a situation.  Without information, critical thinking isn’t successful.

4. Learn to Multi-Task

In order to control your situation and be able to maintain focus, you need to be able to juggle multiple demands with ease.  You must learn how to pay attention to tasks, deal with problems and opportunities as they arise, and know how to prioritize. Some situations are  unpredictable to some degree, so last minute changes can’t be avoided.  When you have excellent multi-tasking skills, you can easily switch from one task to another that requires your immediate attention, and back and forth again.

5.  Control Your Stress

If you are one to be easily stressed in certain situations, you really need to learn how to manage your anxiety level.  Remaining calm and coping with a level head and keeping your mind on task allows for maximum critical thinking.  Panicking and worry will clog your thoughts and aren’t conducive to your productivity, nor your health!