Using Questions to Frame a Project
My friend and mentor Anita Cassidy taught me how to use questions to frame a project. It’s a simple way to agree on the ‘what’. If everyone begins with the same definition of ‘what’, then it’s unlikely you’ll miss the mark.
For example, a project to research the feasibility of modernizing your HR system might need to answer questions like:
- What are the gaps between our current HR system and those capabilities offered by a modern HRIS?
- Which aspects of a new HRIS are most appealing to us? (e.g. performance management, onboarding, enrollment, self-service, succession planning, etc.)
- What quantitative and qualitative improvements make it compelling to modernize? How compelling is it?
- What is the ballpark cost, effort and timeframe to execute this change?
- Where does this initiative fit into the business strategy and 3-year plan? How does it coexist with other initiatives in the company and within the department primarily responsible to execute?
Start with this list of key questions the project will answer. Then it’s not so difficult to figure out what steps it might take to answer the questions. Once you’ve done the work and documented the findings, it’s easy to vet this against the initial questions as a final check to verify you completed what was originally planned.
We do this exercise on every project. It’s in the beginning of every ITDirections proposal. And over the past 15 years, it’s been a valuable practice and a key to our success.
It’s not rocket science; its simple; and it works. I’d encourage you to try it out and see if you to find that it magically keeps everyone’s expectations in alignment.