Understanding questions makes learning project management easier


Understanding questions makes learning project management a lot easier.
In my experience, those new to project management struggle more with understanding project-related questions than in finding answers.

During my project management class, the attentive learner (and potential project manager) is confident in answering questions about the project process. However, whenever a formal assessment is required to verify essential project knowledge responding to “questions” or understanding what the question is asking can become an actual issue rather than progressing through learned project management processes.

Why do we have trouble answering questions?
It can be that we are too often in a hurry. We want to get the question answered so that we can move onto the next task. We don’t wish to be considered as slow or lacking in knowledge.

In quoting Socrates, “understanding a question is half an answer.” The question generally points to a path that your mind navigates when trying to arrive at the answer. If we do not grasp the key points, our answer will be likely to be problematic.

For those of us who recall answering multiple-choice questions, it can help, when unsure of the right answer, to pause and ask “questions about the question” by breaking the question down:

“What is the point of this question?”
“Why am I being asked this?”
“How does answering this question relate to what information is required?”

The Socratic method is known as critical thinking, a thought process that allows us to evaluate and assess information objectively and deliver a calculated, well-judged response to the question.  Now, with meaning derived from the question, we can proceed to verify competency.

Is there a link between critical thinking and questions?
Critical thinking is an efficient and effective tool when purposefully applied to answering questions. It clarifies information, investigates assumptions, looks for reasons and evidence, solicits viewpoints and perspectives, explores implications and consequences. Hiring managers consider critical thinking to be an essential skill.

What is critical thinking?
Critical thinking is in analysing facts to form a judgment. It is more than understanding. It is problem-solving, reasoning, being creative, evaluating, always looking for hidden meanings. Using reason and logic helps to understand the question. It is the ability to think clearly.

In summarising, answering project questions requires the ability to think “deeply” about the question. Critical thinking understands the logical connection between ideas and is just one of a set of transferable skillsets. Transferable skills are interconnected:

  • Technical Literacy
  • Communication
  • Time Management
  • Critical Thinking
  • Collaboration and Team Work
  • Creativity 
  • Leadership

Transferable skills useful in critical thinking
There is a range of transferable skills to help in progressing projects to deliver the expected result:

  • Analytical thinking
  • Excellent communication
  • Creative thinking
  • Open-mindedness in considering alternative approaches 
  • Ability to solve problems
  • Asking insightful questions
  • Promoting a teamwork approach to problem-solving
  • Assessing your contribution to an organisation or project 
  • Gathering information
  • Ability to negotiate
  • Decision making
  • Commitment

Projects, critical thinking and questions
Projects exist in a fast-paced, competitive, changing environment to solve a problem, identify an opportunity or, comply with mandated procedures. Project managers and business analysts elicit what a client wants them to design, develop, deliver. Questions confirm the client’s requirements in providing the right quality product or service within the agreed timeframe and budget.

Project Manager Toolbox
Project delivery teams execute the work of the project. Adopting critical thinking helps avoid surprises.

There is a myriad of other useful tools and methods available to assist in delivering projects. Consider adding critical thinking as a “must-have” in your project toolbox for use when answering questions.