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PM Tip: Ask Another Question

This is another in a series of Project Management tips derived from my experience building an enduring record as a Project Manager who leads business and systems projects from inception to successful completion.

PM Tip: Ask Another Question

Asking questions is one of the primary tools available to you as a project manager - what is the status of this? when will it be complete? what are you waiting on? who are you waiting on? are there any issues I don't know about? what are the risks to successful completion?

I learnt early on my career as a PM that all too often the real answer to such questions is not the first answer you get.

Colin Sander, a colleague in business coaching, who has mentored me regularly over the years, has written on this: Accountability, Closure and Performance: 

[The PM] asked a member of his project team a question relating to the level of progress with a project task.

A simple question: “when will task x be completed?”

The answer from the team member was: “I’m working on it” ...

In this example the response from the PM should have been another question: "that's good to hear, but when will it be completed?"

I happen to know that is exactly what the PM's response was!

And sometimes one more question is not enough.

You need to keep asking further questions until you are fully satisified that you have the full answer.

In my experience it is not that team members are usually being deceptive - if they are you need to hold them to account on that too.

Rather they often perceive such questioning from their PM as a distraction from their work, and will give enough of an answer to make you go away!

If you do go away after receiving an incomplete or even evasive response then you can expect to receive more and more of them.

Ask Another Question!

Prior posts in this series:

  1. Sometimes You Have To Pull An All-Nighter
  2. Look for Early Warning Signs
  3. Intervene Early

References (3)

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