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10 Questions Every Project Manager Should Ask

At some point in our careers, we are all project managers. Our leadership style shines through and we are tasked to lead a team towards success. Every project is different, requiring you to tap into a different skill set and inspire those around you to perform. As you take on new and more challenging projects, the complexity of each increases – and reaching your desired deliverables becomes more challenging.

At the onset on the project, there are dozens of questions you can ask. Here are ten questions that a project manager can ask to kick of the new project. These are based on my experiences, so I’d love to hear some questions you start your project with. Here’s the list:

1. What are my expected deliverables?

Here it is critical to understand what it is you are actually going to produce – make sure you are on the exact same page with your entire team and client. Make sure that the end goals are the same, written out and agreed upon so there are no suprises down the road.

2. What are our team ground rules?

Think through some ground rules of how your team will operate in terms of process. Decide how often it is you will meet, who will lead meetings and at what time. Every project will require different ground rules, for well developed teams, maybe these have evolved naturally over the years. It never hurts to talk through process and how you lead your team to meet your objectives.

3. What does my project plan look like?

What is the schedule like? Maybe this project is something similar to others you have done and can leverage your past experience. Map out what the project plan is, key targets and dates. Speaking of dates…

4. What are the key dates?

I’ve been in projects when there are had hard and soft deadlines. The best trick I have found is to treat everything as a hard deadline, and as a last resort, see what you can move. You will need to be as flexible as possible, but there is a limit to flexibility. Some dates are deal- breakers, know this well in advance to avoid any conflicts.

5. How much flexibility do I have in scheduling?

If you are juggling multiple projects, make sure you have allocated enough time to each project and have dedicated enough time to each project.

6. What are my teams best assets and how can I leverage them towards success?

Know your team and what each member brings to the table. This will help you delegate work and set up your project plan. Leaning on the strengths of your members will be critical to the success of your team.

7. How can I avoid risks, what are some potential roadblocks?

Think through some of the roadblocks you might encounter and what potentially could challenge your team. If you can find some roadblocks, then you will be able to better plan accordingly and know how to navigate smoothly around the challenges.

8. Where can I seek help if needed?

Who is your go-to resource? Are there some resources you can leverage to help you throughout the project? Think through all the resources you have read through or researched prior to the project, and how you use them during the project.

9. Does my budget have any flexibility and what is driving costs?

If there is something in your budget that you know has potential to drive costs – think through strategies on how to mitigate those effects. For instance, if you know that workers are going to be forced to work overtime on weekends to complete the terms of the project – how can you prioritize work to decrease overtime hours and keep overtime down work.

10. What kind of check-points have I set up with my team and client?

How often are you meeting with your client to provide check-ins? Set up some basic plans in the beginning, this will help build trust and allow you to be transparent throughout the project.

What are some suggestions that you have? What kind of strategies have been successful for you? I would love to hear your insights.

This post is brought to you by the GovLoop Project Management Council. The mission of this council is to provide you with information and resources to help improve government. Visit the GovLoop Project Management Council to learn more.

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Josh Nankivel

Good list. Aside from the team and stakeholder leadership items you’ve listed, I generally teach people to plan and get started on projects in this order:

  • why (this is your charter)
  • what (scope statement, pbs/wbs)
  • how (task breakdown)
  • who/when/how much (staff, schedule, cost)

Then you can go back and iterate if the costs or schedule come out wrong, by decreasing scope or whatever.

The order of operations is very important. I see too many project managers that jump right into creating a schedule file before they have even established the why or what.