Project management is built around gathering the right information, from establishing scope to obtaining quotes for services and materials. But sometimes project teams fall into a rut, asking the same questions instead of looking for new ways to delve into challenges that might yield more actionable—and accurate—data.
The inquiries already being made are a valuable part of the process. Adding a few key questions here and there may help PMP®s increase the quality of information they’re able to pull from the executive team, stakeholders, end users, and even vendors.
Too often, PMP®s let stakeholders get away with providing easy answers when it comes to defining the parameters, benefits, obstacles, and expectations around a project. The team asks questions about what they want the end results of the project to look like, but that may not yield all the information there is to find. Along with the more conventional, very useful list of questions, try also asking why the organization wants to do this project. The responses will often provide additional insight into what stakeholders and end users actually hope to accomplish.
Unlike discussions that target specific results, PMP®s are likely to receive responses that reference soft benefits, which may be more difficult to define and measure but are a critical component in securing long-term stakeholder satisfaction. Because it can be difficult for executives and sponsors to approach their project expectations from this perspective, it may be worthwhile to partner with an experienced facilitator who can help guide the discussion. The same goes for conversations with end users, who often aren’t included in early-stage planning activities and may have difficulty articulating their expectations.
Make the most of your mentoring program
Mentoring relationships are an important component in the cultivation of a strong project team. However, while PMP®s focus their efforts on a meaningful transfer of knowledge from seasoned members to those newer to the field, there may be missed opportunities for everyone involved to learn valuable new skills. Inquire about what each mentor wants to get out of their mentoring relationships. This turns the conversation on its head, since most discussions revolve around what the mentor plans to contribute.
By shifting the focus to what senior team members would like to gain from their involvement in the mentoring program, the Project Team could discover ways to improve the process even further. It may become apparent that certain competencies are missing in the mentoring program or that the methods for partnering mentors and mentees needs to be revamped. Be sure to share mentors’ responses with the human resources team so they can contribute any additional thoughts on how to expand the program’s benefits.
Get more value from your vendor relationships
Business partners and outside vendors are often key players in project planning and execution. The Project Team relies on them for expertise and guidance on a number of niche areas, as well as for their ability to judiciously schedule and allocate resources during each phase of the project. But unless they’re working on a software development project, one thing many PMP®s don’t discuss with vendors is how technology fits into the puzzle.
Take the time to question any third-party collaborators about their technology usage, practices, and protocols. The project team may learn about new for streamlining activities, or updated methods for improving real-time communications between project members and their stakeholders. The Project Team could also choose to adopt a vendor’s data-sharing protocol if it’s more secure than the practices currently in use. As security technologies and business needs evolve, work with business partners to keep procedures up to date.