How to use a Project Decision Log

How to use a Project Decision Log

What is a decision log?
What goes into a decision log, and what is it used for?
The people who accepted the decision
The real decision
Information supporting

How to use the decision log
Excel decision log template download

What is a decision log?
A decision log template is a document that you use to record all decisions related to your project.
Decisions can be made in many settings: meetings, email, in person, in the corridor, etc. I have learned from experience that it is difficult to recall what decision you made and that it is hard to find information in meeting minutes to remind you why.
Human nature is to focus more on the things that prevent you from making decisions, than the decisions you have made.
The decision log is part of your project’s comms records. It keeps track of conversations that took place, so it can be used as both follow-up to comms activity or as a comms record.
This document solves many of the communication issues that arise in project communications. It’s so easy to use that you’ll never want to stop using it.
What is a decision log?
A decision log should contain information about the decisions made. You would typically want to record:
The date
Notify the person who made the decision. This is usually the date at which the decision was made. Most decisions are made in meetings.
The people who accepted the decision
Note the names of those who were part the decision-making group.
This will include you, your project sponsor, as well as any other subject matter experts that participated in the agreement. This is useful in case they forget later that they were present in the room and part of the discussion.
The real decision
Yes, you should record the decision made. This is the most important part.
A project decision log is meant to record only decisions that are relevant to the project work. If you have a conversation that leads to you making a decision about something not technically project-related, it should be recorded elsewhere.
The decision template is yours to make. It is not recommended to be used for project decisions or agreements, but you can still use it in any way you like.
Information supporting
I also include a note indicating where I can find supporting information regarding the decision. I include, for example, meeting minutes or the transcript file from a meeting that explains why we made the decision we did.
You can include slides, a proposal, a reference log or issue log, change analysis, or any other supporting information that supports why you agreed to do that particular thing at this time.
You can also include any other information that helps you remember things (and communicate with people who have forgotten). Add extra columns and notes as you wish.
The one I use (which can be found here) is an Excel spreadsheet. You can make adjustments to align it with the rest of the project documentation. Or copy and paste the table to create a Word decision log template.
How to use the decision log
Record every decision made in the log. I also give each of my decisions a reference number to make it easier for us to find them in the future.
It doesn’t matter what you write in a decision log, but that you can call it up later to make a decision. When there is an issue or challenge, the template’s utility is evident. You can then call up the decision log to remind everyone why you chose that course of action.
This is especially useful for stakeholders who have trouble remembering what they said or why.
A decision can be reversed. You can still reverse a decision once it’s been documented.