Project Success needs critical skills

Project Success needs critical skills

There are critical skills needed by project managers which lead to project success. Regardless on the project being delivered or the industry, the technology used, or the methodology followed. Each of these skills requires a combination of what are commonly called hard skills with those needed to work effectively with others. These skills complement project manager’s soft skills.

A key soft skill is elicitation, the ability to ask questions which actually get the information required. Although elicitation is far more than the questions asked, it’s all about learning. Used to learn what stakeholders want, what they need, and what they expect by asking really good questions and listening.

There are several pitfalls which can make the elicitation process a challenge.

#1 – Missed Expectations

Expectations are requirements, so it is best to ask what the stakeholder’s expectation is of the final product.

#2 – People Fear The Future State.

This major pitfall is hard to overcome for many reasons. Some stakeholders are comfortable with their current state and don’t want to learn or train on the new processes and automation. Others are concerned for their jobs. Still others have a stake in the existing ways – perhaps they were part of its development or a known expert on its use. Whatever the reasons, the fear of the future state can make elicitation difficult.

#3 – The Time Trap

Due to perceived time constraints at times only high-level requirements are gathered, but we don’t have time to uncover the expectations. After the initial set of sessions, interest can wane as the difficult detailed meetings drag on.

There are some approaches which can assist with successful elicitation

Use a variety Of Elicitation Techniques

  • Process modelling. It documents how people get their jobs done. But as with all elicitation, it’s not easy. For example, one of the most difficult aspects about process requirements is that stakeholders argue over where to begin and where to end and how the processes fit together. Using different process models helps avoid this contention. Help narrow the scope of each model with the use of swim lane diagrams which help visualize how the processes fit together.
  • Data modelling. Process modelling is great, but people need information to get their work done. Data modelling helps figure out what information supports each process step. It also provides business rules and is invaluable on AI initiatives.
  • Use cases. These models help understand how stakeholders want to use the final product. They provide not only the scope, but all the functionality of the solution. And use cases, if completed thoroughly, turn into test cases.
  • Prototypes show what the final solution will look like.
  • Brainstorming yields the power of the group, while one-on-ones often reveal what stakeholders really think.

Ask Context Questions

A context question is one that surrounds the solution that is being built. This can be achieved by grouping questions into four categories;

  1. These questions relate to what’s happening outside the organization and include questions like demographics, language, weather, technology, and compliance/regulatory. These may or may not apply to the project.
  2. These pertain to how ready the organization is to accept the final product. The bigger the change, the more issues there usually are. For example, which stakeholders will be on board, which will resist the change, and what needs to be done to prepare the organization for the change?
  3. Ensure that the business problem being solved and the proposed solution align with the organization’s goals and objectives.
  4. These context questions are usually those about the current state.

Know When To Use Open-Ended, Close-Ended, And Leading Questions

Open-ended questions allow the respondents to expand their thoughts. Ask open-ended questions any time more needs to be learnt. For example, these questions are asked when beginning brainstorming an effort and when issues need to be identified.

Closed-ended questions are forced-choice questions. They have the answers embedded in the question itself, sometimes explicitly as in a survey question, or implicitly. It is best to ask closed-ended questions when stakeholders are all over the board real focus is required. For example, given all these issues identified, if there is a choice of 10, which would they be?

It is best to avoid Leading questions as they are really the opinion of the person asking the question when the aim is to obtain the stakeholders thoughts, requirements and learn what is needed.  

Effective elicitation is critical to the development of a final product to the stakeholder’s satisfaction. Elicitation is not easy. There are several pitfalls which are difficult to overcome and deliver a product those stakeholders actually like and want to use. It would be great to understand your approach to questioning and deriving information from stakeholders as we all have different approaches. All the very best on your project management journey.

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