18 Common Project Manager Questions To Ask Before Starting a Project
By Indeed Editorial Team
Published October 8, 2021
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
Properly preparing a project is usually very important for a project manager's success. Regardless of the types of projects that you usually manage, knowing which questions to ask before starting them can help you organize your tasks and make work more efficient. If you're about to begin a new project, you may benefit from learning about the most commonly asked questions to ask to help the project succeed. In this article, we discuss why asking questions before starting a project is important and list some of the most relevant questions a project manager can ask.
Why is it important to ask project manager questions before starting a project?
Preparing for an upcoming project effectively is an important responsibility for project managers, and asking relevant questions is an integral part of preparation. Given the complexity of some projects, there are usually multiple aspects that a project manager can clarify and optimize before starting work. Doing so can improve the effectiveness of the team handling the project and prepare everyone involved to overcome some of the issues most likely to occur.
18 project manager questions to ask before starting a project
Here are 18 of the most commonly asked questions you can ask before starting a project to help you succeed:
1. What are the project's goals?
Clarifying the project's goals with the client is usually an integral part of preparing for a project. If everyone on your team knows exactly what the end goal is, you can keep everyone focused while trying to reach that objective. It can also help you devise an appropriate strategy for attaining those particular goals.
2. What's not included in the project's goal list?
Knowing what you don't need to do while completing a project is often as important as knowing your primary goals. This can prevent scope creep, which refers to the occurrence of uncontrolled growth in a project's scope after its inception. Clarifying the aspects related to the project that aren't your team's responsibility can also help you stay on track and avoid performing unnecessary and time-consuming work.
Related: FAQ: Project Management Basics
3. What's the project's deadline?
The project's final delivery date is also an important aspect that you need to discuss with the client so that you can then communicate it to your team. Besides the project's deadline, you can also inquire about any important milestones and time constraints that may affect your team's schedule. Having the whole timetable for the project can help you organize your team and set individual goals and timelines for each member.
4. Who are the project's stakeholders?
When managing a project, you're likely to need approvals from its stakeholders for major decisions along the way. Knowing who to ask for approval regarding such decisions can significantly improve your team's efficiency by avoiding any delays caused by a lack of communication with the stakeholders. Also, knowing who represents the client and who's responsible for project deliverables can help you get regular feedback regarding the project's progress.
5. Is the team experienced in completing similar projects?
Your overall approach to preparing the team for an upcoming project can vary depending on how experienced your team is in performing specific tasks. The more you know about your team members' skill sets, the more effectively you can create a process that takes advantage of everyone's best qualities. It can also help you prepare your team for the project, as you know which members require specific training for certain tasks and which ones are already familiar with performing them.
6. What are this project's main risks and challenges?
Knowing what could go wrong while working on a project is a crucial part of its preparation. Identifying the risks that are most likely to occur can help you reduce the odds of them materializing while teaching your team how to mitigate the ones that do. You can identify potential barriers that can prevent the project from being a success by discussing the matter with its stakeholders, asking your team for their feedback and analyzing past projects with similar goals.
7. How does the project get its funding?
Having the necessary budget to complete a project is an essential aspect, as a lack of funds can delay it or force the team working on it to compromise on quality. Knowing where the project gets its funding and if all funds have already been secured can help you eliminate concerns regarding the budget. It can also help you allocate funds in a way that prioritizes the project's primary needs.
8. How does the client measure the project's success?
Although some of the project's goals may seem straightforward, you and the client may have different criteria regarding what it means to reach those goals. To eliminate any ambiguity regarding this matter, you can set clear metrics and deliverables that help you and the client measure the project's rate of success. Doing so can also help you assess the state of the project throughout its completion.
9. How would the team communicate while working on the project?
Effective communication between team members is usually essential for a project's completion within the set deadline. Before starting work, you can establish communication procedures depending on particular situations and needs. This may include tools for written communication, file sharing, presentations, feedback and communication with remote team members.
10. Who is in charge of each of the project's smaller deliverables?
Dividing a project's main goals into smaller components and making certain team members responsible for their completion within a set deadline is a common and typically effective project management practice. Doing so can help your team communicate better, with every team member knowing exactly who to talk to regarding a particular issue. It also helps you, as a project manager, get feedback on specific aspects of the project.
11. What tools do we use?
Besides communication tools, there are other tools that can help you complete the project on time and within agreed guidelines. There are dedicated project management tools that help you plan and manage every aspect of project management, as well as tools for specific purposes, like time-tracking tools. You can ask your team to provide suggestions for such tools and find ways to implement them within the project.
12. What tasks have priority over others?
Although completing a project typically involves completing a certain set of tasks associated with it, their order and the resources you allocate to each can influence the project's overall success. When assessing task priority, you can sort them according to their individual deadline and based on the order in which you need to complete them. Knowing which tasks are more urgent than others and which ones you need to complete first can reduce the time you need to complete the entire project.
13. What's the size of the team?
The number of people in your team can significantly influence the project's completion time and quality of deliverables. Knowing the size of your team can help you set realistic goals and deadlines. It can also help you delegate various tasks based on the number of team members available and their relevant skills.
14. What are the most important decisions you're likely to make while working on the project?
Even with clearly set goals and deliverables, you're likely to have to make some important decisions as a project manager. Analyzing each of the project's elements and attempting to predict the potential situations where you would have to make a crucial decision can help you prepare for those moments. Doing so can save time and make the process more efficient.
15. Who is the final consumer?
Besides the project's stakeholders, some projects also have final recipients who differ depending on the project's particularities. Despite the agreed-upon project goals and deliverables, satisfying the client alone may not be enough to consider a project as being successful. Knowing if your project is targeted for a specific audience or user base can help you adapt your work to improve the odds of its final consumer considering it a success.
16. What are each team member's personal goals for this project?
When preparing a project, it may help to ask all team members what they personally hope to get out of it. Doing so, while also stating your own personal goals, can help strengthen team camaraderie and improve communication. Also, knowing what success means for each team member may help you find additional ways to motivate them.
17. What's the most appropriate way of rating each team member's individual performance?
Before starting a project, it's important to determine the most accurate way of evaluating each team member's overall performance. Once you know the project's goals and the people in charge of each of its aspects, you can think of metrics to use for evaluating each member. Doing so can help you track their individual progress throughout the project completion phase and determine their overall contribution after you've delivered the project.
18. How flexible are the project's goals?
Depending on the project's nature, its goals may have different degrees of flexibility. Some projects have clear goals that you cannot alter in any way, while others' goals may depend on external factors and various events that occur after you start working on them. Knowing the project's degree of flexibility and what can influence the end goal can help you prepare for various scenarios.
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