Useful Questions Project Managers Should Ask

When projects are first assigned, or when hot leads then turn into contracted projects, there are some questions that project managers should analyze and ask themselves at the beginning of a project. This will help fully assess project specifications, identify risks, budget, resources, etc. and put together a plan of action.

  • What are the deadlines and what does the schedule look like? Obviously this depends on the projects that you manage or the organization or clients that you are associated with, but ultimately one of the first things project managers should assess are the deadlines. Often times this may involve reviewing and analyzing the specs before committing to a deadline or setting up a schedule.
  • What does the budget look like? The second crucial item in a project to analyze and review is the budget. What materials or resources or time does the budget allow for? Is there a little or a lot of room in the budget? Will a risk response plan need to be put in place should project specs change late in the game? Project managers, unfortunately, often have to work with condensed or limited budgets…especially today. It is important to fully assess these constraints and put together a risk response plan for any changes or issues that come up.
  • What are the risks involved? In identifying schedules, deadlines, budgets, and project specs, it’s also absolutely crucial to identify project risks. No project should be handed off to team members or vendors until all risks have been identified and addressed and documented. Putting together a risk response plan to address the risks is also a pertinent step. This should outline what the risk category, the risk facet, and the probability that risk will occur, the impact, and what a reasonable response would be. It’s also a good idea to hold regular risk planning meetings to go over these with team members, particularly prior to hand off phases and other milestones.
  • What are the customer’s needs? While it’s easy to get wrapped up in data and the details such as schedules, budgets, resources, etc., it’s always important to remember what and for whom the project is for. What is the purpose of this project? What benefits does it serve for the client? What is the client looking to get out of it?Sometimes having this frame of mind will help us to deliver successful projects to clients. It’s also a good idea that when identifying project specs and other data to question anything that doesn’t make sense. For instance, if a particular client asks for a spec that seems odd, it may be worth questioning, or at least trying to understand what he or she is looking for, and then offering a possible or easier solution that may save everyone time and money.
  • How can we contribute to the project’s overall success? In addition to the previous point, it’s also important to take a step back and think of how your team can contribute to the project’s overall success. What skills do you and your team have that would benefit this project? What can you bring to the project table that would really ensure its success? Each project manager and team has their own personality and ways of doing things that stand apart from others. While this isn’t a competition, a team should be aware and proud of their skills and put them to use in a project.

These are just several questions that project managers should ask themselves when being assigned or taking on a new project. Some of these are typical questions that we have to identify all the time, however, sometimes we may forget what and for whom the project is for. It’s easy to get stuck on the details and forget the big picture. Taking a step back and truly thinking about these items will no doubt ensure the project’s success.

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