Everything You Always Wanted to Know About your Project – But were Afraid to Ask

ZCOPE Support am 27. August 2009 um 12:20 Uhr

question mark

„There are no dumb questions only silly answers.“ (Marshall Loeb)

This is absolutely right. Most of the time it‘s better to ask than to assume. Questions can ease your life – if you ask them at the proper time.

In my projects, I love to ask questions. Especially at the beginning of a project but there are questions that should be asked also afterwards: again and again. Some people won‘t come to the project manager and tell their needs, ideas, sorrows, problems… So you have to come to them.

Why I believe in questions
A short story why I believe in questions: in my by then biggest project ever there was one big part of the solution nobody in my company liked or believed in. But no one said anything – it was presumed to be the „holy wish“ of the customer. As the project leader, I liked the idea neither – because I didn‘t believe in it.

In the kickoff meeting, I thought about how to address this topic. And I decided to ask a simple question. Directly after the welcome speech (I‘m an „in medias res“ girl) I asked the customer‘s project leader: „Why do you want it?“.

My boss nearly had a heart attack. I heard him breathing rather heavily. The project leader looked at me and tried to find an answer. So I helped him out: „Is it because your competitive, company X has it too?“. My boss didn‘t breath at all. My opposite smiled and nodded. I explained him why my team didn‘t believe in the idea. It turned out they also took it for a bad idea and were happy we provided arguments against it. My boss finally came back to life. The happy end: we skipped the disliked part but got the amount fixed in the offer.

My conclusion from this was: it‘s never dumb or bold to ask – a lot of people are only too glad having the chance to talk.

You shouldn‘t be afraid to ask these questions
I collected some questions that can help a lot and should be asked besides the ones you have to ask in every project (e.g. Will we be ready in time? or Who will do it and when?). Some of them I found in the articles I listed at the end of the post, some of them I‘ve used myself:

Addressed to the customer:

  • Why do you want to do (produce, build, etc.) it?

Addressed to your team:

  • Do you like working in this team/on this project?
  • Is this what the customer wants?
  • Do we make money with it?

Addressed to everyone:

  • Why do you say that?
  • What does that mean?
  • What does that mean to you?
  • Who‘s of a different opinion?
  • Is anyone not comfortable with an aspect of it?
  • Who else should join this discussion?
  • Do we all have the same picture of the project?
  • Is it legal?
  • Why/why not?
  • Why do we have to do that?
  • What will happen if we ignore it?
  • If we ignore it – how long would we be safe?
  • Do we miss anything?
  • Do you have questions?
  • What did I forget to ask?

And the million dollar question

  • I know you don‘t know it. But if you would, what would be the answer?

So you‘re a project manager now?
I extracted this sentence from an absolutely worth reading story on managementblog.org: „Dumb questions

„Other people are expected to have all the answers. Project managers are expected to have all the questions.“

Where I found some of the questions:
Top 10 Dumb Project Management Questions (reformingprojectmanagement.com)
Ask dumb questions (goodproductmanager.com)

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