questioning

Project Manager: 10 Powerful Questions that you should Ask

Questioning is the ability to organize our thinking around what we don’t know – The Right Question Institute

I

n order to arrive at the right answers, you need to ask the right questions.
 
Veteran mentors understand that it is more important to teach students to ask the right questions rather than simply provide them with the answers. In the Socratic Method, questions are continuously asked in order to encourage analysis and critical thinking.
 
In project management, the question of how to overcome obstacles can be answered by being persistent in asking questions until a clear solution is arrived at.
 
In fact, one of the key reasons why many projects fail is because the project manager and his team have failed in answering questions related to the scope and limitations of a project, project timeline, and those related to the team’s assumptions.
 
More often than not, project management teams fail to ask these questions due to over eagerness to kick off the project.
 
Studies say the most effective managers ask more questions. In today’s fast-moving business landscape, what are the top questions managers and leaders need to ask their teams to achieve the best results?
 
Before commencing with a project, it is essential for the project management team to sit down with the client to ask questions related to the processes and risks involved as well as organizational dynamics. Asking these questions before beginning a project can lead to quality results as well as better expectation management.
 

What are the project goals?

Asking these questions will allow your team to achieve two goals. First, you will gain better focus by zeroing in on a clear goal. Second, answering this question will help you and your team to determine the right approach and tools to use to meet these goals.

When is the project due?

Project deadlines are determined in two ways. First, it can be arbitrary, often by key personnel in the client’s organizations. Another way the project deadline is determined is by affixing it to another project, event or campaign. With the latter, the project at hand should be completed alongside that project, event or campaign.
 
Ideally, your team should not simply take note of the deadline and then devise a plan. That approach carries a substantial risk of failing to meet the agreed upon deadline. The better approach would be to create a sense of urgency by being continuously mindful of that deadline.

How will project success be determined?

The question goes beyond performance evaluation. Before commencing with the project, you need to sit down with the client to determine which metrics will be used. By asking this seemingly simple question, you will be setting up your team for success.

Who will give final approval?

The answer to that question will vary from one project to another. This is why it is crucial that you know beforehand who ultimately owns the project. This will enable your team to know whom to consult and inform at every stage of the project.




How will you handle feedback?

It is critical for teams to set up a system for handling client feedback. Otherwise, conflicting feedbacks can set back the project timeline and lead to confusion and frustration.
 
Again, sit down with your client and determine the right process to use in providing and answering feedback.

Are there dates when the client will be unavailable?

At different points during the project timeline, you may need to consult or make a presentation for the client. Sometimes, schedules come into conflict which, in turn, can throw off the project schedule.
 
The simplest solution to this issue to create a calendar which involves your client’s schedule.

Have you worked on a similar project before?

If you have worked on a similar project like the one you are about to start, you can leverage your team’s past experience and insights and even past mistakes to overcome potential hurdles.

What are the potential stumbling blocks that you might encounter?

Risks are inherent in just about any project. As a project manager, it is one of your key tasks to identify potential stumbling blocks and determine ways to eliminate, or at the very least, contain these in order to ensure the smooth flow and timely completion of the project.

Are there issues that you need to educate the client?

In some cases, there will be issues that your client cannot understand. Questions related to your processes or tools or even the project deliverables will arise.
 
Patiently explaining and answering these questions will help you cultivate a relationship of trust with your clients and stakeholders.

How will you handle communication?

In order to ensure the seamless completion of the project, you will need to be in constant communication with your client. The preferred mode of communication in each project will vary.
 
It is your duty then to find a communication platform that your client will be comfortable using.
 
Asking these questions can help you gain access to vital information that will help your team successfully and promptly finish a project. When you are having a sit-down with your client, let these questions serve as a guide for both parties.
 

Salma El-Shurafa is an experienced Executive Coach and founder of The Pathway Project. She is a Professional Certified Coach by the International Coaching Federation (ICF), a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach from The Coaches Training Institute (CTI) and a graduate of CTI’s Co-Active Leadership program. Connect with Salma Twitter.

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