Every team project involves hundreds of decisions. Some are innocuous; others, such as selecting a supplier or picking a material for a new product, have a big impact on the project and the team.
The thing is, these choices tend to blend together over time — and when someone raises an issue that was settled weeks ago, it’s easy to forget why you made the original selection. Or, two or three team members might make a decision during an informal conversation, leaving the rest of the team in the dark. Both scenarios can introduce inefficiencies, but fortunately, there’s a simple solution: decision logging.
A decision log provides a way to track key project decisions, streamlining discussions and keeping team members on the same page. Let’s take a look at how decision logging can save time, eliminate confusion, and improve your project management process.
What is a decision log?
A decision log is a record of all the important decisions your team makes during the course of a project. It creates a paper trail for your process — that way, if questions arise in the future, it’s easy to look up why the team agreed on a specific course of action. Decision logs also document key discussions; when a team member isn’t able to attend a meeting, they can review the log to catch up with the group. You can use decision logs for any project, but they’re particularly useful for long-term initiatives and large groups with many different stakeholders. To get the most from a log, make sure to include all pertinent information.Keep all of your project stakeholders in the loop with a decision log.
What is included in a decision log?
The information you include in a project decision log depends on the context and significance of the decision in question. At a minimum, it’s helpful to note the details of the situation, the options the team considered, and the group’s reasons for choosing the winning solution. For complex discussions, you might also explain the alternatives and why the team ruled them out — especially when specific concerns or disqualifying factors were part of the decision.
When you’re writing a decision log, make sure to include helpful details:
- Date and location: Record the meeting time, date, and location, especially when a decision happens away from a group discussion.
- Team members: Note who was present to create a record of the people involved in the decision.
- Supporting details: Include information that supports the decision, such as price quotes, test results, or market research. If the team second-guesses a decision in the future, hard evidence can reinforce confidence in the original course of action.
How decision logs are used in project management
In project management, decision logs are a way to keep project stakeholders on the same page. Project managers create the log at the beginning of the project and make it available to each person on the team. Every time the group — or a subset of the group — makes a critical decision, they note it in the log. Other team members are responsible for reviewing the document and raising concerns quickly when necessary.
Used efficiently, decision logs can streamline and improve communication among stakeholders. It’s not always practical for everyone to participate in every discussion, but real-time decision log updates enable team members to raise concerns in a timely fashion. Before you introduce this tool into your project management strategy, it’s important to identify when a decision log is most useful.
When to use decision logs
A decision log isn’t a complicated tool, but it can take time for team members to integrate the logging practice into their usual workflows. For optimal results, start with the projects and decisions that will benefit most from decision logging.
When you have a project that lasts for months, it can be challenging to remember why you made a specific choice. A decision log is a handy way to track the team’s thought processes over time — that way, it’s easy to review your reasoning. If you’re developing a new product, for example, you might decide to use steel instead of aluminum due to interruptions in the supply chain. Later, when a stakeholder asks why you didn’t use aluminum to save money, you can check the decision log and explain the situation.
Projects with large or dispersed teams
If your team consists of remote workers and people from different departments, members won’t be able to attend every meeting. When a smaller group needs to make decisions, a decision log helps the rest of the group get the information they need. If your marketing team decides to focus a campaign on a specific product feature, the sales team can check the log and start preparing their pitch accordingly.
Hotly contested decisions
Team projects often involve strong opinions and debates, but at some point, the group must pick a course of action and move forward. A decision log can be a lifesaver when you’re making hotly contested choices. If a team member brings up the issue in the future, you can pull up the notes as a quick reminder. This strategy can minimize conflict and reduce the need to rehash old discussions.
Decisions that involve multiple options
Project decisions aren’t always clear-cut; sometimes, you need to choose from a variety of options. This is where a decision log truly shines — it’s a place to record each alternative, along with the pros and cons. When you need to convince stakeholders of the final decision or change course later on, you’re prepared with documentation.
If your team selects a transportation provider, you could use the decision log to explain how the company’s price and delivery timeline are the best fit for the project deadline. In addition, you might include the names, price quotes, and competitive advantages for the remaining three vendors. If the first company goes out of business a few months later, this information helps you switch providers quickly.
Decision logs can help your team pivot quickly when unexpected changes arise.
Decisions that cause confusion
When a project involves complex topics or expert-level knowledge, a decision log is one way to clear up confusion. This happens frequently on teams that include employees from different specialties. If your engineering team makes a highly technical choice between electronic components, they can explain it with simpler, less complex language in the decision log to help programmers and corporate leadership understand the reasoning.
Decisions that impact the entire team or project
Choices that affect the team or the project should always be recorded in the decision log. As long as team members are reading the log frequently, they’ll have time to ask questions and prepare their workflows appropriately. Decision topics that usually require logging include:
- Timeline: Log decisions that change the timeline for individual groups or the entire team. This includes shifts to milestones, deadlines, and deliverables.
- Directional shifts: If a decision is likely to affect the direction of the project, note it in the log so other members can adapt accordingly.
- Subtle impact: Some decisions seem insignificant but actually have a large potential impact; include them in the log to avoid confusion.
Benefits of decision logs
When paired with the right project, a decision log can transform your project management experience. Some benefits of regular decision logging include:
- Time savings: When you have a decision log to remind you why the team made a choice, you don’t need to discuss the same issue multiple times — you can reference the log and keep moving forward.
- Efficient workflow: By reading the decision log regularly, team members can raise concerns quickly and avoid costly delays in the future. This makes it easier to utilize the collective wisdom and experience of people at all levels.
- Minimized confusion: A clear, easily accessible decision log keeps everyone in the loop, so team members never need to wonder about the reasoning behind each choice.
- Accurate record-keeping: With a decision log, team members don’t need to rely on their memories to recall discussions and motivations.
Create custom project decision logs with monday.com
A decision log is most effective when it’s in a central location, such as the monday.com Work OS. If you want to keep the log in an external spreadsheet, simply import the Excel file as a board. Alternatively, you can add a custom decision log to a Board directly in Work OS. Pair it with a Gantt Chart to see key decisions reflected in the overall schedule of a project, or add context by linking it to your meeting minutes.
Frequently asked questions
What is a decision log in project management?
A decision log is a document that tracks all the major decisions made over the course of a project. It explains the reasons for each decision, so team members can identify their original motivations in case of confusion, disagreements, or unexpected changes to the project.
How do you write a decision log?
To write a decision log, explain the choice the team made and the reasons for making it. If you considered other alternatives, list them and explain why you ruled them out. It’s also helpful to include the date, location, and the names of the people involved in the decision.
How do you keep track of decisions?
A decision log is an easy way to keep track of the decisions you make in a project. It serves as a written record that team members can look to avoid confusion, settle arguments, or change course as needed.
Documenting projects with a decision log
A decision log brings order and transparency to project management, so your stakeholders can feel informed at all times. By recording important decisions, it’s easier to build a comprehensive team understanding that informs each person’s contributions. With the project management tools at monday.com, you can build a custom decision log to streamline documentation and communication for projects of all sizes.