20 Tough Questions every Project Manager and Product Owner should have in their Arsenal. These questions come with warnings

Nov 28, 2016


We tend to have these challenges in our project culture

  1. We tend to get stuck in building the detailed technical design;
    learn how to focus on the high-priority outcomes of a project.
  2. We tend to look like fools when people ask smart questions about our projects;
    learn to ask the intelligent questions, early.
  3. There is always someone with a strong opinion;
    learn to make those smart-ass architects look silly.

Warning 1: People we have worked with have been fired for not being able to answer these questions.
Warning 2: These questions can be a cultural shock to your colleagues; so we recommend you exercise considerable caution and diplomacy in asking them. Maybe do like Toms wife would do, make Tom think he thought of it himself.


10 Tough Questions You can ask about the Objectives,
Requirements & Outcomes

Click to tweet title    Click 10 questions to LinkedIn

1. Have you agreed upon a set of top-10 critical-value objectives for the product? 

2. Are those objectives unambiguously clear to all who might have to understand
them, the intended readership? 

3. Is it clear which requirements the stakeholders support, and are interested in? 

4. Are the requirements really values, qualities, and results: not the technology we
think will get us there? 

5. Is it clear what the worst acceptable value delivery level is? 

6. Is it clear what the Wish level is, and that this is not a commitment yet (Goal level):
until we find technology and resources to reach it? 

7. Is it clear what the requirement’s knock-on value is, for example ‘economic’,
or in terms of higher level objectives, if we reach the Wish or Goal level.
What is it worth? 

8. Do we know the defect density of our specifications?
If you can see more than 10 unclear or ambiguous words on a requirements page,
is this a threat to understanding your project?

9. Do we have other primary stakeholder levels that need a separate specification
of requirements?
Like; Business Level, Stakeholder Level, Product Level or Sub-Product Level.

10. Is there any requirement arguably more-critical than the top-ten,
that we failed to include or specify?
Now that we think we have a complete set: what is missing? 



I did a Livestream going through these first 10 questions.
See it on LinkedIn See it on Twitter (Periscope) 


10 Tough Questions You can ask about the Solutions,
Design & Architecture

Click to tweet title   Click 10 questions to LinkedIn

11. Are the designs/solutions specified so unambiguously and clearly,
so that nobody can inadvertently misunderstand them,
including what to estimate and what to implement?

12. Have you estimated the short-term and life-cycle costs,
in both time and money, for each major solution idea?

13. Have you looked at the ratio of solution impacts over their
costs (solution impacts/solution costs):
so you can select the most efficient solutions?

14. Have you looked at the worst-worst case (credibility and uncertainty)
for all value impacts, and all resource impacts?

15. Can you consider implementing the most efficient (effects/costs)
solutions early, to get feedback, learning,
and possibly deliver real value to the field?

16. Can you decompose any design idea, into smaller,
independently implementable, sub-solutions?
High-value decompositions can be delivered earlier.

17. Have you invited competitive imaginative engineers,
to come up with far more cost-effective solutions than you can?
Using the Value Decision Table as a provocative baseline for discussion.

18. Is it possible to improve the Value Decision Estimate,
and improve certainty, by better research on the existing experience of the solutions,
or by experiments, or pilots?
Can you get better solution credibility for deciding what to do first?

19. Can we conduct simple, short-term, this week, A/B experiments to get
better data and experience on some of the solutions?

20. What can we do to motivate the best design engineers and architects to analyze
our ideas, and come up with better ones?
Both up front, and after delivery cycle feedback.


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