What is a Decision Log and How To Use it in Project Management

Blog 28-02-2024

Imagine a project scenario where timelines are tight, tasks are piling up and decisions are coming thick and fast. In the midst of this, something goes wrong – decisions get lost, details become unclear and the project’s path becomes a convoluted maze.

In the complex world of project management, decisions play a crucial role in steering the course. However, what happens when these decisions are not tracked effectively? Confusion sets in.

This is the consequence of poor decision tracking, a situation that leaves teams disoriented, questioning the origin and reasoning behind each decision.

Enter the solution to this project management challenge: the decision log.

It might not have superhero qualities, but it serves as a practical hero, bringing order to the chaos by recording decisions.

In this article, we explore the realm of decision logs – the quiet champions ready to restore clarity and direction to projects that have lost their way:

Table of contents

What is a decision log?

Benefits of decision logs for project management

Types of decisions documented in a decision log

What to include in a decision log

How to integrate decision logs in project management software

What is a decision log?

In the realm of project management tools, the term “decision log” might sound like another bureaucratic addition to the process.

However, in its simplicity, a decision log becomes a fundamental management tool that transforms chaos into order by recording critical decisions.

Let’s break down what a decision log truly is and why it’s more than just another item to check off in the project management checklist.

A decision log, at its core, is a structured record-keeping mechanism that captures and catalogues the key decisions made throughout the lifecycle of a project.

Think of it as a project journal, diligently recording the who, what, when and why behind each decision.

This may include workflow details such as the date, time, location and the individuals who are part of the decision.

In essence, the decision log serves as the project’s memory bank, preserving the evolution of choices made, the factors considered and the context in which decisions were executed.

By doing so, it not only brings transparency to the decision-making process but also creates a valuable repository of insights for future projects.

In a world where project landscapes are ever-changing and team dynamics evolve, having a decision log is akin to having a compass.

It provides a reliable reference point, ensuring that decisions are not isolated events but integral components of the project’s narrative.

When the path seems unclear or when team members need context on a particular decision, the decision log becomes the go-to resource.

It bridges the gap between past and present, offering a coherent story of the project’s decision-making journey.

In essence, a decision log is the quiet guide that ensures the project stays on track and the team remains aligned, even in the face of complexity and uncertainty.

Benefits of decision logs for project management

Beyond being a mere record-keeping tool, decision logs stand as pillars of strength within the project management framework, offering a myriad of benefits that significantly impact the trajectory of a project.

Let’s look at the strategic advantages that decision logs bring to the forefront, making them indispensable assets for any project team navigating the intricacies of decision-making.

Enhanced decision-making process

In the hustle and bustle of project timelines, decisions are often made swiftly.

However, without a systematic approach to record these decisions, the nuances of why a particular choice was made can fade into the background.

A decision log steps in as a meticulous chronicler, providing a clear narrative of the decision-making journey.

This clarity not only fosters a more informed decision-making process but also serves as a learning tool for future projects.

Improved stakeholder communication

Projects are collaborative endeavours involving various stakeholders with distinct perspectives and interests. A decision log becomes the bridge that connects these diverse viewpoints.

By documenting key decisions and the rationale behind them, the decision log ensures that stakeholders are kept in the loop.

This transparency builds trust and confidence, creating a cohesive environment where everyone understands the reasoning behind crucial project choices.

Historical reference for better decision making

Projects are not isolated events; they are part of a continuous learning cycle. Decision logs act as the historical archives, preserving the thought processes and outcomes of past decisions.

This retrospective insight becomes a powerful resource for future projects, enabling teams to refine their strategies based on past successes and challenges.

In essence, decision logs transform past decisions from isolated incidents into building blocks for continuous improvement.

Types of decisions documented in a decision log

A comprehensive decision log must be versatile enough to capture the diverse array of choices made throughout the project lifecycle, such as:

Critical decisions

At the apex of the decision hierarchy are critical decisions – those that hold the power to significantly alter the project’s course. These decisions often involve high stakes, impacting project timelines, budgets, or the overall project strategy.

The decision log serves as the guardian of these critical moments, providing a detailed account of the factors considered and the reasoning behind the chosen path.

Course of action decisions

Projects are a series of interconnected actions, and decisions are the signposts that guide these actions. The decision log captures the pivotal moments when a course of action is determined.

Whether it’s choosing a particular project methodology, altering a workflow, or deciding on the approach to a specific task, these decisions shape the project’s trajectory, and the decision log preserves the blueprint.

Risk management decisions

Risk is an inherent part of project management, and decisions related to risk mitigation and management are crucial for project success.

The decision log becomes a repository for decisions related to identifying, assessing and addressing risks.

By documenting the risk management decisions, teams create a roadmap for handling uncertainties and unforeseen challenges.

Would you like to learn more about risk management and risk communication? See our comprehensive guide Communicate Risks Effectively – How to Visualise Risks by Project Stage.

Project team decisions

The dynamics of a project team are ever-evolving, and decisions related to team structure, roles and collaboration are paramount.

The decision log captures choices made regarding team composition, responsibilities and communication protocols.

This ensures that the project team remains aligned, and any shifts in team dynamics are documented for future reference.

Deliverables decisions

Projects are ultimately judged by their deliverables. Decisions regarding what to deliver, when and how are critical for meeting project objectives.

The decision log catalogues these decisions, providing insight into the rationale behind deliverable choices and serving as a reference for future projects with similar objectives.

Metrics and evaluation decisions

Evaluating project progress requires defined metrics and criteria. Decisions related to the selection of key performance indicators (KPIs), evaluation methodologies and success criteria find a home in the decision log.

This ensures that the project team is aligned on the metrics that matter and facilitates data-driven decision-making.

What to include in a project decision log

Crafting a decision log is not merely about jotting down decisions; it’s about creating a structured record that can stand the test of time and serve as a reliable guide for project teams.

Let’s explore the key components that should find a home in any well-crafted decision log template:

Decision details

At the heart of every decision log is the basic who, what, when and where. Record the fundamental details of each part of the decision, including the date and time it was made, the location or context in which it occurred and any relevant documents that set the stage for the decision-making process, such as meeting minutes.

Decision maker

Identify the decision-maker or group responsible for the final decision. Clarity on who holds the decision-making reins is crucial for accountability and ensures that there’s no ambiguity about who owns the outcome of the decision.

Stakeholders involved

Projects are collaborative efforts, and decisions often have ripple effects across different teams and individuals. In your decision log, include the names of the people directly impacted by the decision.

This inclusion ensures that communication lines remain open, and everyone involved is aware of the decisions that influence their work.


The ‘why’ behind a decision is perhaps the most critical aspect. Document the thought processes, considerations and factors that contributed to the final choice.

This not only enhances transparency but also provides valuable context for future reference, allowing teams to understand the reasoning behind each decision.

Follow-up actions

Decisions are not endpoints; they are waypoints in the project journey. Outline the course of action that follows each decision. This may include specific tasks, milestones, or actions that need to be taken based on the chosen path.

A well-documented follow-up plan ensures that decisions translate into tangible progress.

How to integrate decision logs in project management software

As we navigate the terrain of project management, the importance of a decision log becomes even more evident.

Now, imagine a world where this essential tool seamlessly integrates into powerful project management software – this is where BestOutcome’s PPM Tool, PM3, steps in as the game-changer:

Benefits realisation

PM3 ensures that the decisions captured in your decision log align with your benefit plan. It provides a robust platform to validate the realism of your benefit plan in terms of timing and value.

As decisions unfold, PM3 becomes the guardian, ensuring that the anticipated benefits are not just aspirations but tangible outcomes.

Beautiful reports and dashboards

Imagine having over 100 out-of-the-box reports and dashboards at your fingertips. PM3 not only facilitates decision-making but also elevates the documentation process.

With drag-and-drop functionalities, it enables the creation of customised reports, making the decision log a dynamic visual representation of your project’s decision landscape.

Prioritisation and transformation

PM3 goes beyond being a project management system; it’s a comprehensive tool designed for managing programmes and portfolios.

Decision logs seamlessly fit into PM3’s framework, ensuring that decisions are not just singular events but integral components of a prioritised, transformative approach to project management.

Effective resource management

In the realm of decision-making, resource allocation is a pivotal aspect. PM3’s resourcing module simplifies this complex process.

Decision logs, when integrated into PM3, become part of a resource management ecosystem.

Project managers can request resources directly within the PM3 workflow, ensuring that decisions are not detached from the practicalities of resource availability and skills mix.

Agile and waterfall support

Whether your project follows agile methodologies like user stories and sprints or adheres to more traditional waterfall approaches such as Prince2™, PM3 accommodates both.

The decision log, within this versatile framework, becomes a living document that evolves with the project methodology, capturing the essence of each decision in its context.

Effective team collaboration

Decision-making is a collaborative process, and PM3 recognises this reality.

Decision logs, as part of this collaborative ecosystem, ensure that the insights from each decision are shared and understood across dispersed project teams, fostering an environment of effective collaboration.

Embracing decision logs in your project management efforts, powered by <strongBestOutcome’s PM3, guarantees a proactive approach to documenting critical choices, fostering transparency and steering your projects towards unparalleled success.

Outcome-driven success

Outcome-driven success

Our products help you deliver successful change programmes and projects by always focusing on the overall business outcomes. Find out how our products can help you.

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