June 20, 2024

Project Management Success

Communicating Using Questions and Project Management

Five Important Questions

Project Management - Questions Lead To Success

You are staring a new project and you are part of a team or even the team leader. To form a team is often a good idea as we can all get more done by working as part of a team. However, there are initial communication issues that every new team has. Here are some questions to keep in mind to make sure communication remains clear and productive.

Communication is key to team and project success.

The team is made up of members that have different backgrounds and experiences. This is true for any and all teams.

There are similarities to be sure and these similarities can be emphasized but the difference also need to be understood and barriers to communication reduced or eliminated.

Leadership in the communication process is necessary and if you are a member of a team then you can exert leadership as leadership is a choice. My suggestion is for you to take the initiative and create communication clarity.

Keep in mind that it’s the little things that can make all the difference. These five questions – though simple – can make all the difference.

Project Management - ClarifyQuestion 1: What exactly do you mean when you say that?

This is a great starting question. It solves a specific problem – the problem of definition.

Words don’t mean the same thing for all of us.



Here is an example.

Team Member: We need to make things easy.

This statement needs clarification. What exactly does this statement mean? Easy for whom? Easy in which way?

As a team member you need to be inquisitive. To ask for clarification is important as it helps to achieve the success of the project. You should not be challenging or accuse a team member of not being clear. You simply want to be clear on what is meant by any statement.

This is followed most naturally by the next question.


Project Management - Be SpecificQuestion 2: Can you be more specific?

A lack of clarity in a conversation strains the conversation or the communication process. It is not good to be vague and you should not accept vague communication from others. Moreover, general statements such as “We need to make things easy.” are so general they could mean anything and everything.

Being vague is, therefore, a communication problem.


Here is another example.

Team Member: We need to make things easy.

You: What do you mean when you say that?

Team Member: You know, it has to be easy for our clients.

You: Can you be more specific?

Continue asking this question as many times as you need so that the statement is clear to both the team member and to you.

Successful project management means that you do not deal in vagaries. To be vague is to proceed in a way that can lead to problems. It could even spell the death of the project.

Let’s say you have attended a project meeting and you leave the meeting with vaguely defined goals and vaguely defined next steps and vaguely defined responsibilities. How comfortable would you be?

To be vague means to settle for less or worst case a lack of success.


Project Management - Keep Asking WhyQuestion 3: Why is this important?

Some people refer to an approach called The 5 Whys. The basic idea is that if you ask the question ‘Why?’ enough you will get to the root of the matter. When problems involve human factors to ask multiple ‘whys’ until the root cause is defined is very useful.

Here is how to use this approach to help determine a root cause of an issue.


Write down the specific problem. Writing down the issue helps you formalize the problem and describe it completely. It also helps a team focus on the problem.

Ask why the problem happens and write the answer down below the problem statement.

If this first answer doesn’t identify the root cause of the problem that then ask ‘Why?’ again and write that answer down.

Continue this process until the team is in agreement that the problem’s root cause has been identified. This may take fewer or more times than five ‘Whys’. The point is to keep asking until you have defined the root cause.

Question #3 which asks ‘Why is this important?’ is a slight modification of the question ‘Why?’ To ask this modified version of ‘Why?’ can produce a great number of good reasons why something is important and you will better understand the perspectives of the people on the team and even their motivations. This is valuable.

There may be many different reasons why people think something is important and it is important to gain insights by understanding the reasons. If there are conflicts, then this is a conversation to have.


Project Management - Define and Measure The Key Success FactorsQuestion 4: How do we know this is working?

To achieve success you need to make measurements.

Consider how different a professional football or baseball game would be if we did not keep score.

Any project needs to define success metrics and have a system for measuring performance versus these metrics.


Therefore, a key question needs to be what will we measure and how will we measure it. This simple question ensure that we know what a picture of success is.

A mock conversation . . .

Team Member: We need to make things easy.

You: What do you mean when you say that?

Team Member: You know, it has to be easy for our clients.

You: Can you be more specific?

Team Member: A visitor to our website needs to be able to subscribe to our newsletter in under 30 seconds.

You: Can you create a subscription form and measure how long it will take you to fill out the form?

Team Member: I will create the form and measure the time.

You: Why do you think this is important?

Team Member: We want to reduce or eliminate the barriers to subscribing.

You: Why?

Team Member: We know that 11% of the subscribers in our database ultimately become paying clients.

You: After you measure how long it will take you to fill out the form what else will we measure so that we know we are on track and staying on track?

Team Member: We will measure the number of times the form is viewed and the number of times the form is submitted and create a ratio that measures the effectiveness of our form page. We will also monitor the total number of subscribers and we will set goals for both metrics.

Can you see how much good work is getting done in this conversation?!

If you are in charge of the project and project team to increase the subscriber base then things should progress towards success.


Project Management - Define The Process StepsQuestion 5: What are all the steps in this process? Let’s review this together.

There’s a very significant amount of value to be realized by taking the time to define the work flow.

Define every step.

Make it crystal clear with no ambiguities.


As you are working through the process associated with this 5th question continue to ask ‘Can you be more specific?’ and ‘Why is that important?’. This enables you and the team to keep in mind both the big picture and the details. You get to see the forest and the trees at the same time!

Communication is fundamental to getting things done and achieving success. These 5 questions will help you and your team achieve success.

If you are looking for more articles on how to improve your business I invite you to look through the business section of this blog. Here is a direct link: Business Blog Posts