Ask these 15 questions before starting your next project


Ask questions, and keep going until you get the answers you need to ensure success


You’ve been given an exciting new assignment. So naturally you want to get started as quickly as possible. You assemble the team, start giving out assignments, and expect everyone to swing into action.

Not so fast! There’s something very important you need to do before you take another step.

And that is? Ask dozens of questions.

As Jagdish Sheth and Andrew Sobel write in their book Clients for Life, “The really good professionals ask great questions. Often they enable solutions rather than supply them.”

Why don’t project leads ask enough questions? Here’s Sobel’s take: “First, they are afraid. They lack boldness in asking questions because they don’t want to come across as being aggressive or overly inquisitive.

“Second, they don’t think enough before they speak. It takes time and investment to come up with really good questions to ask someone, until you get practiced at it.

“Finally–and this is the most important reason–in our culture we believe we impress others and demonstrate our worth by being ‘smart’ and having all the answers.”

I’ve learned that it’s actually smarter to ask many, many questions.

Here are 15 great questions (or question sets) to give your project a strong start:

  1. What are the objectives? How do you define success?
  2. If the project doesn’t succeed, what are the implications?
  3. Why is this project so important? What is the case for change?
  4. What are the key milestones? What are the most important dates?
  5. What are the most important decisions that need to be made? What will prevent us from making those decisions?
  6. What are the biggest obstacles to getting this done?
  7. Who are the key stakeholders? Who’s the owner/sponsor? Who influences but doesn’t own? Who has the potential to be an obstacle?
  8. What are the project’s greatest assets?
  9. How can we best leverage those assets?
  10. What are the most important areas we should always focus on?
  11. How much risk are you willing to take to accomplish this?
  12. What barriers have you encountered in the past about this issue?
  13. What keeps you up at night about this?
  14. What topics haven’t we discussed? What topics would you rather not discuss?
  15. What is your personal passion about this project? What will this mean to you when we succeed?

Ready to ask great questions? Start now to get the answers you need.