5 Questions Leaders Should Ask to Keep a Project on Track

 5 questions leaders should ask to keep a project on track

Project leadership is not limited to the designated Project or Program Manager. Project leadership also includes executive sponsors or steering committee members that help drive transformational initiatives and provide oversight.  Leaders are encouraged to think holistically, gather information, and act in a proactive manner to keep a project on track. In order to accomplish this, Elire suggests that Leaders ask the following 5 questions: 

1. What are the project fundamentals? The rest of the questions are less likely to be successfully answered if the fundamental goals and objectives are not in line.  Leaders should ask the project manager if the project is on Budget, within Scope, within the designated timeline and if the project has the sufficient and necessary resources it requires.  
 
Leaders should also have a clearly defined set of guiding principles that can be referenced throughout the project. Holding effective project status meetings is a critical part of determining any roadblocks or risks to the project and ensuring these principles are being followed. (Read “4 Tips for Effective Project Status Meetings” here).  
 

2. How will the project team handle change management? Many times, we see projects that were not implemented successfully due to the lack of a well-thought-out change management effort.  The system/process change must take into account the people who will be using the new system or process to get their work done.  Change management includes how the project team will communicate the changes, train the changes, and get stakeholder alignment. 
 

3. Is the project really going to achieve a significant improvement or transform the current process?  A good way to determine this is to measure your process maturity. Process maturity seeks to understand the enabling characteristics of each process that will yield improvements over a period of time. It is critical to understand how to measure your process “enablers” for each existing process while also determining where you want to be.  

 

5 questions leaders should ask to keep a project on track
 
Additionally, you must look at your current state processes as a whole. Informal processes are categorized by unorganized, chaotic results with no defined process. At the functional level, operations are consistent and reliable, the process is predictable and manageable. Standardized processes are high-performance and designed end-to-end to yield superior performance. The collaborative stage is integrated with other processes. Processes are integrated with enterprise processes and strategy.  
 
At the final leading level, the process is extended beyond the organization, outside the company and extends to suppliers yields world-class results. The goal is to evaluate early on whether your project will advance your current process maturity level. Furthermore, it’s crucial that Leaders continue to ask if the team truly understands what is being implemented, so as to avoid unwanted surprises.
 

4. What is the methodology, and do I understand what deliverables to expect?   
Essentially, as a Leader you must ask: is the actual level of effort that will be required for the project team and the impacted business stakeholders understood? If the business does not have time to engage and participate, then the project will be less successful. Being transparent and realistic regarding the level of effort and time commitments necessary in order for the project to be successful will help ensure that the project stays on track.  
 

5. Do I understand and am I able to leverage the different skillsets and personalities of my project team?
Before jumping into your teams’ skillsets and personalities, take the time to understand the projects’ guiding principles. These principles are what will ultimately guide the entire project teams’ success and help you as a leader align skillsets and personalities. By taking time to recognize the individual assets and capabilities of each member of your team, you are able to delegate tasks and responsibilities to the best possible person and ensure success across your project.

Utilizing 1:1 meetings with individual team members with a set cadence can help leaders understand their team members’ strengths and weaknesses better while also getting to know them on a personal and professional level. Personalities might not always match and sync as much as we would like throughout the project, but your project’s guiding principles are there to provide common ground for the entire team. 

In summary, by asking these five questions, Leaders are taking the necessary time to gather information, stay on top of their projects, and ensure the project stays on track. To learn more about business process improvements your organization can leverage, including end-to-end process redesign and maturity, take a look at the Business Process Improvement Consulting Services page of our website here. In the meantime, subscribe to our monthly Project Management newsletter here for project management blogs and webinars delivered right to your inbox.