Nine Questions for Project Managers to Ask
As soon as you’re assigned to manage a project, try to get a clear picture of its significance — an accurate appreciation of your project’s purpose can lead to better plans; a greater sense of team member commitment; and improved performance.
To understand the significance of your new project, determine the following:
Whom do you need to involve? Knowing early whom you need to involve allows you to plan for their participation at the appropriate stages in your project. Involving these people in a timely manner ensures that their input will be available when it’s needed and lets them know you value and respect their contributions.
As you determine who may play a role in your project’s success, categorize them as follows:
Drivers: People looking for your project’s results
Supporters: People who can help your project succeed
Observers: People interested in your project
What results will you produce? Specify all the results you expect your project to achieve. Be sure that you clearly describe each product, service, or impact; make the outcomes measurable and include performance targets. Confirm that your project’s drivers believe these outcomes meet their needs and expectations.
What constraints must you satisfy? Identify all information, processes, and guidelines that may restrict your project activities and your performance. When you know your constraints, you can plan to minimize their effects on your project. Distinguish between the following:
Limitations: Restrictions that people outside your project team set
Needs: Restrictions that you and your project’s team members establish
What assumptions are you making? As soon as you begin thinking about your project, document all assumptions you make about it — after all, each of those assumptions can lead to one or more project risks that you may choose to plan for in advance. Continue adding to your list of assumptions as you develop the different parts of your project plan. Update your plans whenever an assumption changes or you find out its actual value.
What work has to be done? Identify all the activities required to produce your project’s deliverables so that you can assign responsibilities for them, develop schedules, estimate resource needs, give specific tasks to team members, and monitor your project’s performance.
For each activity, specify the following:
The work to be done
Results you expect
Interdependencies and relationships
When does each activity start and end? Develop a detailed schedule with clearly defined activities and frequent intermediate milestones. Having this information on hand allows you to give team members precise guidance on when to perform their assignments. This information also supports your ongoing monitoring and control of work in progress.
Who will perform the project work? Knowing who will perform each task and how much effort they’ll have to devote allows you to plan for their availability and more accurately estimate the overall project budget.
What other resources do you need? Identify all equipment, facilities, services, supplies, and funds that you need to perform your project work. Specify how much of each resource you need and when.
What can go wrong? Identify those parts of your project that may not go according to plan. Decide which risks pose the greatest dangers to your project’s success, and develop plans to minimize their negative effects.