Ask tough questions

Tough questions

Ask tough questions at the beginning of your projects.


Because at the beginning of the project you:

  • are new
  • have nothing to lose
  • have not spent any money
  • are mostly still sane and rational, and
  • have time to do something about it if you discover something you don’t like.

The beginning of a project is the time to ask those tough, uncomfortable, awareness generating questions that all too often go left unsaid because:

a) people are just being nice and are too polite to raise them, or

b) it’s still a big love in and everyone is still gazing lovingly into each other eyes.

Like all strong marriages, if you are going to build a lasting relationship with your team, and your customers, you need to start preparing for the day after the honeymoon. Start talking plainly and frankly about how you are going to address some challenges you see on the horizon.

For example, if you start hearing things like:

So you want to replace your legacy mainframe application using a junior team, with no .NET experience, no OO experience, and no agile experience. Blindfolded. Interesting ….

You think one analyst will be sufficient to produce requirements for 30 developers? Tell me more!

You want to leave testing till the end of the project, while ensuring quality is job #1. I see.

If I understand you correctly, scope is fixed, budget is fixed, quality is fixed, and date is fixed. All we need to do is follow this 5 year Gantt chart and we will be successful? Is that correct?

Waiting to have frank discussions about these and other project pitfalls till the end of the project is too late. No one will want to hear it.

Raise issues early. Have frank, respectful discussions. And talk about these things while you are sane.

Don’t expect to resolve everything.

But have the conversation.

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3 Responses to “Ask tough questions”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Ask tough questions

  2. Tanmay Says:

    Can’t agree more – having a sound project kickoff process with a checklist of tough questions is extremely crucial.

    Besides that, kickoff is also a mechanism to

    – Check that every team member knows scope
    – Clarify and manage their expectations on quality of deliverables
    – Define roles and responsibilities
    – Visit the first milestone (since that is something to come first)
    – Get commitments from team on acceptability of schedules and timelines
    – Identify potential risks and top level mitigation actions
    – Emphasize on review and unit testing practices
    – Intimate team about client’s expectations
    – See what is reuasbility

    To add to your points, asking tough questions during the project execution (in the status review process) also helps to accurately gauge current health of project and need for corrective actions. So according to me, a good list of questions for initiation and project reviews can add lot of value to overall project management process.

  3. JR Says:

    Yes – full heartedly agree on continuing to ask tough questions through out project Tanmay. The other points you list are also very crucial to ask. I have a slide (an inception deck I use to hit these high points).

    I plan on writing and sharing more of my experiences with these soon.

    Thank you for your comment.

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