Tip of the Month – February 2011 – Ask good, probing questions.

Hints and tips

Hints and tips

Most people who know me know that I try to ask very good questions…probing questions…questions that try and drive out a good understanding of an issue and its root cause so that it can be solved.  So you can imagine my surprise when a manager at one of my client organizations said to me, “Don’t ask questions in meetings.”  I was devastated.  This manager’s rationale was that asking questions would cause meetings to run longer.  I remember when I was doing undergrad internships at a prestigious medical center, the philosophy was “dumb questions are easier to address than dumb mistakes.”  I have always tried to heed this advice, except I always try to ask good questions, not dumb ones.

Needless to say, this manager and I disagree, but the client is the client.  You must adapt to the client’s culture.  I believe as a program and/or project leader you need to ask many good and probing questions.  If you do not ask questions, I find that you often find out too late about an issue (or the root cause of an issue) to “fix it,” so the issue does not negatively impact your program (i.e., cost, schedule, or quality).

If you find yourself in a similar situation, sit down with the manager and try to understand his or her rationale for taking a particular position.  In some cases, it may be valid.  In other cases, the manager may understand your perspective or offer another approach to get the information needed to address the issue(s).

You need to be a leader.  You need to lead your program to a successful outcome.  You need to understand the issues and get the issues solved quickly.  You need to solve the issues so your programs can be successful.  Good probing questions will simplify your life as a program/project leader.  I know it has for me.


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