I have written before about the need for project managers and project team members to have excellent questioning skills.
This aspect comes into its own during the session when I explain the concept of work breakdown structure (WBS). I describe what it is, its importance and how to develop a WBS. Once I have demonstrated with the group how to produce a WBS; it’s activity time.
A feature for project teams we have worked with is the lack of detail in projects. During the activity I usually challenge people to breakdown the activity even more – more detail I cry. I explain that when we have worked with project teams we discover that the plan is often based on too little detail; more is needed.
During the activity groups get stuck; they struggle to create more activities to put onto post it notes. How they ask, can we create more activities?
So, what’s the question to ask?
I introduce them to a key question to ask during the development of a WBS.
HOW is that question.
Let me explain. Let’s imagine you are creating a WBS for a wedding. ‘Purchasing flowers’ is identified as a task. But, it is too high a level of detail; it can be broken down into many ‘sub’ tasks. The danger is that in simply having purchasing flowers as a stand-alone activity, some of the activities to do this will not be built into the final project plan.
- chose colours for flowers
- identify who flowers are for (all guests or wedding party only?)
- look on line at companies supplying flowers
- get recommendations from friends/relatives
- check for allergies to any specific flower wearers
- create a budget
- identify where we want flowers – wedding ceremony, reception etc.
- visit wedding fares
- visit actual wedding to view flowers ‘on show’
The above list could be endless. The HOW question energises groups, develops more activities and produces a more realistic list of activities needed for the project.
During reviews of this important activity, groups consistently say that the HOW question is essential and often missing from their WBS activity.
Those who come along to our project management training courses recognise that in the past they have not generated sufficient detail in their own projects and the sheer number of activities increases dramatically using this question.
So, HOW good are your questioning skills in developing a WBS?