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Topics: Communications Management, Leadership, Talent Management
Ask or Answer?
When relating to your team members, which strategy is most appropriate?
- Ask questions "forcing" team members to find answers and / or solutions?
- Give answers and indicate solutions according to what you consider most appropriate?
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Dear Mr.Luis, I have just joined the discussion. I see several viewpoints from others in this regard and agree with most of them.

There are five leadership strategies in any aspect of life I know including IT.

1. Combative Style Leadership.
2. Negotiative Style Leadership.
3. Educational Style Leadership.
4. Emotive Style Leadership.
5. Practical Style Leadership(This I believe is important but not mandatory).

The variances or combinations can be adopted based on the situation. Today's issues faced by world is very different from what has been experienced before. We all have to take lessons from them and move forward to adopt to this generation. 21st Century Millennials are more capable and they can transform the world by taking appropriate lessons from the history.

I suggest next generation students to read Leadership Styles and Incentives by Julio J.Rotemberg and Garth Saloner, Sloan School of Management, MIT California 94305 Pages 1299-1318 for more details.

I am a strong believer of "Today's issue won't be tomorrow's issue".
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2 replies by Luis Branco and Suneel Kumar Nadella
Nov 17, 2019 4:34 AM
Luis Branco
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Dear Suneel
Thank you for participating in this reflection and for your opinion.

Interesting your approach is from a leadership perspective

There are several leadership theories, I will say, a la carte

From your perspective and taking into account the changes taking place in the world, what is the most appropriate approach?
Ask or answer?
Nov 17, 2019 6:05 AM
Suneel Kumar Nadella
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Dear Mr Luis, I always take the middle path as it tends to work always. We need to ask when needed for collection of info and answer when needed to. We are responsible and accountable for our deeds and actions. I tend to find out history only when needed and try to ensure that we should look forward and leave something to the future generations. Learning happens both ways - elders to youngsters and youngsters to elders. Best Wishes and Regards Suneel
Problem solving is about asking the right questions to further understand the problem and then finding new or alternative solutions that address the problem. This approach can be learned and scaled up and up to larger problems. This is s fundamental approach of IT desktop support that I carried into project management and into and onto larger projects.
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2 replies by Adrian Carlogea and Luis Branco
Nov 16, 2019 7:26 AM
Adrian Carlogea
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Yes but in order to ask the right questions and especially for determining the solution you need hard skills relevant to the domain of the project.

If you have only project management experience you may have difficulties in asking the right questions and you would definitely not be able to determine or indicate solutions.

If the problem is not technical in nature you could ask the right questions and even provide solutions.

The bottom line: you can't indicate solutions in a domain in which you are not an expert.
Nov 17, 2019 4:39 AM
Luis Branco
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Dear Daire
Thank you for participating in this reflection and for your feedback.

Interesting your sharing: "Problem solving is about asking the right questions to further understand the problem and then finding new or alternative solutions that address the problem"

How have you been with this approach?
Dear Mr Luís this topic is very interesting, there are also very value contributions of the members with in i agree.

I Will approach to this question depending of the maturity level of the project manager and the team.

1 - Experienced PM and team
2 - Inexperienced PM and Experienced team
3 - Experienced PM and Inexperienced team
4 - Both PM and team are Inexperienced

This different scenarios shoul lead to diferent styles, were asking questions or giving answers Will more relevant ir less acording to maturity level of both PM and team. In a sintethic way i could say that is more important to ask questions if the team is experienced and capable of solving problems for it self otherwise we should provide answers. In case of an Inexperienced PM it's important the guide of a mentor to help you evaluate the team and provide the wrigth answers or questions depending of the maturity level of the team.

So the leadership style will vary according this scenarios and evolve with growth of the maturity of the team and PM, and reach to a pratical approach where the ideas and answers debate between team and PM is natural and productive.
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2 replies by Adrian Carlogea and Luis Branco
Nov 16, 2019 7:17 AM
Adrian Carlogea
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What do you mean by experienced PM? Experienced as a subject matter expert capable of defining technical solutions for the team to follow or experienced in project management? There is a huge difference between the two kinds of experience in this context.

A PM with a lot of project management experience but with little or no subject matter expertise can't provide any answers to the team and in many cases can't even ask the right questions as he does not understand the terminology used by the team members.

So a PM with a lot of project management experience but with no subject matter expertise would be considered inexperienced by the project team members.
Nov 17, 2019 7:18 AM
Luis Branco
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Dear Alexandre
Thank you for participating in this reflection and for your opinion.

When I mentioned the 4 scenarios, my thoughts went to the situational approach to leadership proposed by Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard.

Today with:
- Democratization of access to information
-People have more knowledge
- Desire to participate in the decision making process

What will be the best approach? Ask or answer?
Nov 16, 2019 6:33 AM
Replying to Alexandre Costa
...
Dear Mr Luís this topic is very interesting, there are also very value contributions of the members with in i agree.

I Will approach to this question depending of the maturity level of the project manager and the team.

1 - Experienced PM and team
2 - Inexperienced PM and Experienced team
3 - Experienced PM and Inexperienced team
4 - Both PM and team are Inexperienced

This different scenarios shoul lead to diferent styles, were asking questions or giving answers Will more relevant ir less acording to maturity level of both PM and team. In a sintethic way i could say that is more important to ask questions if the team is experienced and capable of solving problems for it self otherwise we should provide answers. In case of an Inexperienced PM it's important the guide of a mentor to help you evaluate the team and provide the wrigth answers or questions depending of the maturity level of the team.

So the leadership style will vary according this scenarios and evolve with growth of the maturity of the team and PM, and reach to a pratical approach where the ideas and answers debate between team and PM is natural and productive.
What do you mean by experienced PM? Experienced as a subject matter expert capable of defining technical solutions for the team to follow or experienced in project management? There is a huge difference between the two kinds of experience in this context.

A PM with a lot of project management experience but with little or no subject matter expertise can't provide any answers to the team and in many cases can't even ask the right questions as he does not understand the terminology used by the team members.

So a PM with a lot of project management experience but with no subject matter expertise would be considered inexperienced by the project team members.
Nov 16, 2019 6:28 AM
Replying to Daire Guiney
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Problem solving is about asking the right questions to further understand the problem and then finding new or alternative solutions that address the problem. This approach can be learned and scaled up and up to larger problems. This is s fundamental approach of IT desktop support that I carried into project management and into and onto larger projects.
Yes but in order to ask the right questions and especially for determining the solution you need hard skills relevant to the domain of the project.

If you have only project management experience you may have difficulties in asking the right questions and you would definitely not be able to determine or indicate solutions.

If the problem is not technical in nature you could ask the right questions and even provide solutions.

The bottom line: you can't indicate solutions in a domain in which you are not an expert.
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1 reply by Alexandre Costa
Nov 16, 2019 8:29 AM
Alexandre Costa
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An experient PM means that he should be capable of handling the 3 sides of the PMI talent triangle , leadership, technical management, stategic and business management.
Nov 16, 2019 7:26 AM
Replying to Adrian Carlogea
...
Yes but in order to ask the right questions and especially for determining the solution you need hard skills relevant to the domain of the project.

If you have only project management experience you may have difficulties in asking the right questions and you would definitely not be able to determine or indicate solutions.

If the problem is not technical in nature you could ask the right questions and even provide solutions.

The bottom line: you can't indicate solutions in a domain in which you are not an expert.
An experient PM means that he should be capable of handling the 3 sides of the PMI talent triangle , leadership, technical management, stategic and business management.
Nov 15, 2019 2:31 PM
Replying to Keith Novak
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If you want them to have ownership of the answer, then you should ask them. If you want them to follow explicit direction, then you can tell tell them, but if it doesn't work, they will blame you.

I have seen directors ask for a recommendation of whether or not to pursue a project. Our well thought out answer was no. We were then told to reconsider our answer. The intent was to get us to conclude we should, rather than tell us that we will regardless of our own opinions.
Dear Keith
Thank you for taking part in this reflection and for your opinion:

We agree: "If you want them to have ownership of the answer, ask them"

How did the situation of the Directors reported by you end?
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1 reply by Keith Novak
Nov 16, 2019 12:24 PM
Keith Novak
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For me the situation was a great learning experience.
- I learned how quickly direction could change at the executive level.
- I learned not to interrupt executives when they are in the middle of dressing down everyone in the room.
- My lead engineer coached me never to change the plan until you see the direction written down on paper.
- I saw that "I want you to decide what to do..." can be a highly political proposition.
- I gained a keen understanding that sometimes there may be other agendas steering a project that you as the PM are not privy to.
- I was able to complete a huge PM project that launched my career (for better or for worse).


Ultimately, the entire product line was soon retired and we effectively flushed 10's of millions of dollars down the toilet. It was the best (albeit the most expensive) PM course I ever took, and I got a great story out of it.
Nov 15, 2019 1:37 PM
Replying to Adrian Carlogea
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It is common sense that you can't indicate solutions to people if you don't have very good knowledge and experience in the specific domain in which the solution has to be determined.

In IT many if not most of the PMs don't have good subject matter expertise and as such they simply can't define solutions. So for these PMs option 2 is simply not available for them. They may even have issues with option 1 as it is sometimes difficult even to ask others to come up with solutions as you may not be able to ask the right questions.

I believe that this question is really for technical leaders such as project technical leads, technical projects managers and low level functional managers (team leads).

So for a technical leader I think the most appropriate "strategy" is to ask the team members to come up with ideas then compare them with his own ideas and decide which is, in his opinion, the best solution.

Usually the specialists in a certain domain work together to find the solution but usually the lead-specialist makes the final decision. The PM can only make the final decision if he is also a specialist.
Dear Adrian
Thank you for participating in this reflection and for your opinion.

Even if you "have very good knowledge and experience in the specific domain in which the solution has to be determined" what is the most appropriate approach? Ask or answer?
What is the best way to make decisions? By consensus or the last word to the leader?
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1 reply by Adrian Carlogea
Nov 16, 2019 10:04 AM
Adrian Carlogea
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I think I have already answered:

"So for a technical leader I think the most appropriate "strategy" is to ask the team members to come up with ideas then compare them with his own ideas and decide which is, in his opinion, the best solution. "

So I think is more of a mix. The leader should in principle have the last word but he should gather ideas from all the team members that have relevant knowledge and can come up with pertinent solutions.

One of the reasons that I am not a fan of Scrum is because, at least in theory, the decisions should be made by consensus with the Scrum Master being just a facilitator that does not have the last word.

I am believer that teams should have strong technical leaders but these leaders should not lead in an authoritarian way deciding by themselves and enforcing the decisions on the team. Before making decisions they should consult the team and also delegate to them some of the decision making.

Also technical leaders are not always the best experts in all the details. The leaders should be involved and make the final decision on high level technical issues but when it comes to lower level implementation technical issues they should give autonomy to the team members that are actually doing the work.
Nov 16, 2019 9:37 AM
Replying to Luis Branco
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Dear Adrian
Thank you for participating in this reflection and for your opinion.

Even if you "have very good knowledge and experience in the specific domain in which the solution has to be determined" what is the most appropriate approach? Ask or answer?
What is the best way to make decisions? By consensus or the last word to the leader?
I think I have already answered:

"So for a technical leader I think the most appropriate "strategy" is to ask the team members to come up with ideas then compare them with his own ideas and decide which is, in his opinion, the best solution. "

So I think is more of a mix. The leader should in principle have the last word but he should gather ideas from all the team members that have relevant knowledge and can come up with pertinent solutions.

One of the reasons that I am not a fan of Scrum is because, at least in theory, the decisions should be made by consensus with the Scrum Master being just a facilitator that does not have the last word.

I am believer that teams should have strong technical leaders but these leaders should not lead in an authoritarian way deciding by themselves and enforcing the decisions on the team. Before making decisions they should consult the team and also delegate to them some of the decision making.

Also technical leaders are not always the best experts in all the details. The leaders should be involved and make the final decision on high level technical issues but when it comes to lower level implementation technical issues they should give autonomy to the team members that are actually doing the work.
Bring in a Business Analyst, it's their job to ask the right questions.
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1 reply by Luis Branco
Nov 17, 2019 9:00 AM
Luis Branco
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Dear Sante
Thank you for participating in this reflection and for your opinion.

Is it up to the business analyst to propose the project development approach? (of course, not to mention other topics related to project management processes)

Regarding the project manager (generally speaking) the approach is: Ask or answer?
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