As individuals in charge of overseeing projects, we all know that uncertainties are given. Part of our job involves managing unexpected variables and changes. However, one of the biggest obstacles that faced as a Project Manager is joining a project that is already in progress. This situation may arise when you’re new to a job and are asked to join a project that’s already underway or when a previous Project Manager suddenly leaves and you’re asked to fill in their shoes.
To address this challenge, I have listed down 13 fundamental questions that every Project Manager should ask when entering or starting a new project. While this list is not a replacement for official PM training, it serves as a starting point and can help you navigate the situation when you’re pressed for time. Additionally, these questions can be customized to suit the needs of your project and client and can be posed during a meeting, via email, or over the phone.
It is important to document the answers received so that you can refer back to them later or share them with the team and stakeholders involved in the project.
1. What are the project goals, objectives, and deliverables?
Before you start working on any project, it’s essential to understand what the project aims to achieve. Ask your manager to provide you with a clear explanation of the project’s goals, objectives, and deliverables. Knowing the project’s purpose will help you stay focused and prioritize your tasks effectively.
2. What Are We NOT Delivering?
Equally as important as what is part of the project is knowing, clearly what is NOT. This is one of the easiest ways to avoid scope creep, confusion, and extra work.
3. Has this been done before?
Even the most innovative, unique, remarkable work in our industry usually builds upon or takes some inspiration from something that was done before. Asking your stakeholders, (clients AND internal team), what other projects have been done before that your team can take inspiration/learn from is a great way to get everyone excited about the work to come, get some new ideas, and stay aware of your competition.
4. Who is the project sponsor?
It’s important to know who the project sponsor is, as they will be responsible for approving the project’s budget, timeline, and scope. Knowing who the sponsor is will also help you understand the project’s priority and the level of resources available.
5. Who are the stakeholders?
Understanding the project’s stakeholders is crucial to ensure that their needs and expectations are met. Ask your manager to provide a list of all the stakeholders involved in the project, their roles and responsibilities, and what they expect from the project.
6. What is the benchmark for project success?
This is one of the most important project management questions to ask at the start of any project. The project goal may seem straightforward, ex: build and launch a new website. But don’t be afraid to dig a little deeper.
Ask your clients and stakeholders what they are really trying to achieve with this work. Do they want to gain more brand awareness? Ensure a successful project or product launch? Acquire more users? Increase revenue? Get your client to be open with you about why they are embarking on this project, and keep that goal or project objective at the forefront of your discussions. Knowing what success will really look like can help your team stay focused and make important decisions throughout the project life cycle.
7. What is the project timeline?
Knowing the project’s timeline is essential to plan your work effectively. Ask your manager to provide you with a detailed timeline, including the project’s start and end dates, milestones, and deadlines.
8. What is the project budget?
Understanding the project budget is crucial to managing your resources effectively. Ask your manager to provide detailed funding, including any constraints or limitations. Knowing the budget will also help you prioritize your tasks effectively and ensure you stay within the project’s budget.
9. What are the project risks?
Every project comes with its set of risks and uncertainties. Knowing the project’s risks will help you anticipate and plan for problems effectively. Ask your manager to provide you with a list of potential risks and the measures that have been taken to mitigate them.
10. What is my role in the project?
Knowing your role in the project is crucial to ensure that you’re meeting the project’s objectives. Ask your manager to provide you with a detailed job description and a list of your responsibilities. Knowing your role will also help you understand your accountability and what’s expected of you.
11. Who are my team members?
Understanding your team members is crucial to ensure you work effectively with them. Ask your manager to provide you with a list of your team members, their roles and responsibilities, and their contact information.
12. What resources are available to me?
Understanding the resources available to you is essential to manage your workload effectively. Ask your manager to provide you with a list of the resources available to you, including any software or equipment that you may need to complete your work.
13. What is the project communication plan?
Communication is critical in any project, and understanding the communication plan is crucial to ensure that everyone involved in the project is on the same page. Ask your manager to provide you with a detailed communication plan, including how often you’ll be meeting, how progress will be reported, and who the point of contact is for any questions or concerns.
In conclusion, entering or starting a new project can be daunting, but by asking the right questions, you can ensure that you have a clear understanding of what’s expected of you. Make sure to ask your manager for clarification on any areas that you’re unsure about, and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Good luck!
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