7 Questions you should ask when assigned a new project

by Mona Mortazavi

Monday morning, you walk into work, and you get asked by your manager to swing by their office. You are told that you’ll be managing a new project, but you don’t have any background or time to prepare. Here are seven questions you can have ready to make sure you are prepared to start off on the right foot with your new project. Be prepared, here are questions you should ask when assigned a new project.

 1. Why does this project exist?

When assigned a new project, this question will give you the background into why the project was created in the first place. You’ll also be able to gauge what the priorities are based on why this project exists. For example, if the project is around reducing the number of sheets of paper printed each day in the office, your first question should be – Can you explain why this project exists? Is this because there has been a complaint, or because we are trying to be more environmentally cautious or cost-effective? If the answer is too general, ask some follow-up questions to truly understand why this project has been created. Asking this question will help you develop your Project Charter.

2. Is there a predetermined budget?

This will help you determine if you need to develop a budget yourself or build your project cost around a predetermined budget. Either way, you’ll have a better idea of what you need to build into your cost management plan, if applicable.

3. When do you need this done by?

Some projects are time-sensitive and need to be agile-managed in a quick manner, while some have more loosely defined completion goals that can afford a more waterfall-type schedule approach. This is one of the most important questions because it ensure that you are aligned with time management expectations. 

4. What is in scope, what is out of scope?

It might be too early to know this, but I would still ask the question. Back to the example in question #1 about reducing the number of sheets of paper printed each day: you’d want to know what printers are in scope, what paper sizes are in scope so that you’re not focusing your efforts in the wrong place. Knowing the answer to this question will help you develop your Project Charter and Project Scope Statement.

5. Who is the project sponsor? 

Once you are assigned new projects, it’s essential to ask who will be championing your project, who is the driver behind this initiative? Basically, who do you need to keep updated on major changes to your project and who can you lean on to remove organizational barriers. Also, if this is a larger project, you’ll want to know if there is a steering committee and who should be part of it. 

6. Who should be on the project team?

Not all project team members may be identified or known at this stage, but you should have a few contacts to reach out to. Some may be general departments, for example, the IT team who manages the printers that you’ll need to reach out to, to get a team member assigned, or specific roles such as the sourcing manager who has an existing relationship with the printer supplier. You’ll need to have all the right people in the room when you hold a Project Kick-off Meeting to discuss the Project Charter and specifically question #s 1, 3, & 4. 

7. What else do you need from me before I get started?

This question will help you and your manager reflect on the conversation and bring up anything else left unsaid or forgotten. 

There is no magic formula for asking the right questions; these are just some questions I have found helpful to get started. What questions do you ask in order to get informed about a newly assigned project?


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