The project was delivered – the client put it down to great questions.

At the post project review, the end client expressed delight and satisfaction that the project had been delivered on time, to budget and with the right results.

He took the floor and after speaking for a couple of minutes expressed some concerns over the amount of time the project manager spent identifying the ultimate outcomes. He said it took:

 many phone calls
 several emails
 2 one hour workshops plus follow up sessions
 a draft and final business case plus a project initiation document

He said this in a voice that expressed great concern – for the time and involvement of himself and his staff. But, his voice soon changed. He read part of an email sent to a Director some of which is shown below:

“I complained to you about the time we spent in meetings, the ‘phone calls and the paper work. However, we needed to go through the process. Why? I personally had a very misguided view of what we really required and some of my staff had even wider views. We needed a process that helped us discover what we really did want. We did not even have the vocabulary. I want to place on records my thanks to the project manager for helping us go through this process. We need to ensure this process is carried on with other projects in the business.”

We discussed this further and the client said there was a key ingredient throughout this process; questioning. The project manager constantly questioned the client and others until the final outcome was understood. he praised the project manager for his skills in this area.

In terms of lessons learned the group said:

 • they recognised the need for a “discovery period” – identifying exactly what was required. The group   were clear that previous projects had gone ahead without being clear what the final deliverables would be
• there is a need for project managers to develop solid questioning skills alongside consultancy skills
• slowing down of project planning was essential. The issue for the group was that they were often planning but they did not really know what for!
• the discovery process may need to take place several times throughout the life of some projects, especially with research or experimental projects

The meeting broke up and several people are now looking at further developing their skills (consultancy skills and questioning) and we are discussing adding a module around discovery on project management events.

What about your company? Do you have a discovery period where you really do identify the outcomes? How skilled are your project managers at developing questions and really understanding that the initial request needs time to develop? How good is your client at clearly articulating what they require.

Time to develop those skills?

This article is part of the skills series for project managers and those engaged in project working! Click here for more information

Tags: project governance, learning

Categories: project management training, project management, project manager, questioning skills, consultancy skills

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