Project Management

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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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Nov 15, 2019 2:32 PM
Replying to Sante Vergini
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It's always better to draw out others' thoughts and solutions, otherwise why consult with them in the first place. No one person has all the answers, and even if they did, getting consensus is not guaranteed.
Dear Sante
Thank you for participating in this reflection and for your opinion.

Wrote: "It's always better to draw out others' thoughts and solutions, otherwise why consult with them in the first place"

What is the advantage (s) of consulting others?
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1 reply by Sante Vergini
Nov 16, 2019 12:11 PM
Sante Vergini
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"...to draw out others' thoughts and solutions".
Nov 16, 2019 12:00 PM
Replying to Luis Branco
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Dear Sante
Thank you for participating in this reflection and for your opinion.

Wrote: "It's always better to draw out others' thoughts and solutions, otherwise why consult with them in the first place"

What is the advantage (s) of consulting others?
"...to draw out others' thoughts and solutions".
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1 reply by Luis Branco
Nov 17, 2019 9:08 AM
Luis Branco
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Dear Sante
Or will they become ours?
Nov 16, 2019 9:32 AM
Replying to Luis Branco
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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?
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.
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1 reply by Luis Branco
Nov 17, 2019 9:11 AM
Luis Branco
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Dear Keith
Thank you for sharing with us your findings.

Was it worth thinking about this learning process?
Nov 15, 2019 2:59 PM
Replying to Al Shalloway
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if there is time I always ask questions to guide them through getting answers on their own. If they state something i know to be wrong, I'll take their perspective and create a scenario where it becomes clearer.

But i always ask and answer as if I don't really know. This makes for good dialog.

If it's a situation where there's little time, i might make suggestions.

The reason for this is _not_ because of the common misconception that people want to own it. Most of the time they are more intersted in a solution that works for them. But if they don't work it through themselves and there is a problem later, they will think i just gave them a bad solution and I didn't understand. If they work through it in their head and then there's a problem, they are better prepared to fix it.

People don't resist good solutions - they resist imposed solutions.
I have a lot more about this in a blog somewhere - i'll post a link to it by next week.
Dear Al
Thank you for participating in this reflection and for your opinion.

In an adaptive development approach (Agil) which is the most appropriate? Ask or answer?

I'll be waiting for you to post your blog articles so I can read them all over
Hi Luis,
I would rather go with asking questions, for team to reflect on the situation in hand, but i would keep that time bound, if it exceeds a certain time limit, I would provide them with the answer and correlate the answer to what the team has provided in the questioning sessions.. So I would use a hybrid approach.
Regards,
Priya
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2 replies by Adrian Carlogea and Luis Branco
Nov 16, 2019 9:11 PM
Adrian Carlogea
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Hi Priya,

When you say that you would provide the answer are you referring to an answer to a technical problem? Are you saying that you are defining the technical solution for the team? Can you please be more specific? What kind of answers do you provide? Thank you very much.
Nov 17, 2019 9:16 AM
Luis Branco
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Dear Priya
Thank you for participating in this reflection and sharing your opinion.

Sometimes making decisions takes a while

Limit time to ask questions and find solutions to what extent this can be inhibiting?
Nov 16, 2019 8:42 PM
Replying to Priya Patra
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Hi Luis,
I would rather go with asking questions, for team to reflect on the situation in hand, but i would keep that time bound, if it exceeds a certain time limit, I would provide them with the answer and correlate the answer to what the team has provided in the questioning sessions.. So I would use a hybrid approach.
Regards,
Priya
Hi Priya,

When you say that you would provide the answer are you referring to an answer to a technical problem? Are you saying that you are defining the technical solution for the team? Can you please be more specific? What kind of answers do you provide? Thank you very much.
Dear Luis,
There are two aspects and both involve asking questions.

First is if the team is junior then I would certainly ensure to ask thought-provoking questions. This is necessary for uplifting them and the more questions I ask and guide them along the way for finding the answer, the more quickly they will learn the process and start contributing. This would essentially be a training type of session, instead of decision making.

Secondly, if I need a decision then the inclusiveness of all the team members would be extremely essential. Two parts are important here: first, ask the relevant questions and wait for a response and secondly ask them what drives them to think that way. This will not only ensure that they contribute but also correlate if they have all clarity of the underlying process. If there is any broken link, the team member would himself be challenged to fix it. After spending a bit of time, one can arrive at a better decision where all the stakeholders are equally satisfied.

Regards,
Syed M Baqar
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1 reply by Luis Branco
Nov 17, 2019 9:44 AM
Luis Branco
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Dear Syed
Thank you for participating in this reflection and for your opinion.

Interesting approach to the two scenarios you presented: asking questions instead of giving answers
Nov 15, 2019 3:46 PM
Replying to George Freeman
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Luis,

If a decision has already been made (e.g. by upper management), then you should state the facts as they are to the team, providing appropriate context. Otherwise, if you have a problem that is going to impact your team, then it is appropriate to engage the team for solutions. If that is the situation, then read further.

I’m a firm believer in “challenge-based problem-solving” (which I will explain below). However, for such an approach to work, the team must have a strong sense of psychological safety in the area of being “wrong,” and as with most things, this starts with the leader. You see, when a leader admits they are wrong, others recognize they have the freedom to do the same, and an atmosphere of challenge-based thought is created. This occurs as the verbalizing of thoughts and ideas is no longer constrained to the fear of being wrong. And when fear is vanquished, barriers fall down. To make this point to other leaders, I jokingly say, “being wrong is the new right” to encourage the leaders to break the ice and be publicly wrong for the sake of their teams.

So, if you have a conducive environment for challenge-based problem-solving (i.e., the team doesn’t fear being wrong) then I believe the best approach is to engage your team regarding the question or problem that is on the table. To do this, the leader literally states, “let’s have a challenge-based discussion,” and the leader states the concern and the challenge (i.e. productive arguing) begins on the subject. When ideas are stated, you invite additional challenge to that idea, and the process continues until it resolves itself to a conclusion.

When you have buy-in from a team, productivity, and effectiveness is greatly enhanced.
Dear George:
Thank you for participating in this reflection and for your opinion.

Interesting approach: "If a decision has already been made (e.g. by upper management), then you should state the facts as they are to the team, providing appropriate context"
Thank you for looking into the situation from this perspective.

Do you think there should be full accountability on the Project Manager?

His other approach concerns the leader's role in creating the enabling environment for team members to participate.

Of course you can do that by asking questions instead of giving answers.

With:
- The democratization of access to information
- The most knowledgeable people
- People wanting to participate in reflection and decision making
- Inability to achieve results without people's involvement

Could it be answer instead of ask?
Nov 15, 2019 4:22 PM
Replying to Adrian Carlogea
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But do you have the ability or should I say the knowledge to decide the technical solution on your own and then order the team to implement it?

Forget about formal authority which you may not have I am talking strictly about the knowledge to determine the solution no matter if you can enforce it or not.

The reason I am asking is because many if not most of the PMs simply can't do anything else than asking question. Even if they wanted to do more than asking questions they simply can't because of a lack of relevant domain knowledge.
Dear Adrian
Interesting your comment
Thanks for sharing

Do you think that what drives Project Managers to ask questions instead of answering is just a lack of technical knowledge?
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1 reply by Adrian Carlogea
Nov 17, 2019 9:08 AM
Adrian Carlogea
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Yes I firmly believe that what drives the PMs to only ask questions and not provide answers is their lack of technical knowledge in the relevant domain. This is common sense and I have seen it happen many many times. When working with the other team members usually 90% of the time PMs ask questions.

If the matter in question is project related but not technical in nature then PMs could answer. However most interactions between the PMs and the other team members are on technical issues and when they are not usually the team members would not want to answer and would aspect the PM to provide the answers.

Example:
The PM asks the team what is needed to convert some data from a format to another. The PM does not have the knowledge to respond to this question as he is not a subject matter expert. The Solution Architect looks into the problem and identifies a software that is suitable for the job.

The software is not owned by the company and as such it needs to be bought. The question now is if the project has money to buy a license for the software. The Solution Architect would not respond to this question and would expect the PM to answer. The PM then has to go back to the sponsor and come back with an answer.

If the PM had had technical knowledge he would have been able to look into the problem himself and maybe come up with an alternative solution that would not need the use of the paid software. As he does not have such knowledge he can't do anything else than asking questions and blindly trusting the Solution Architect or other SME that works on the project.
Nov 15, 2019 10:44 PM
Replying to Rami Kaibni
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Luis

From my point of view, this specific thing is not black or white. It depends on the situation, the team, the culture, and many other factors so unless there is a specific situation you have in mind, I guess it can be any of the two choices.

RK
Dear Rami
Thank you for participating in this reflection and for your opinion

What is the most appropriate approach in general?
Ask or Answer?
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2 replies by Rami Kaibni and Sante Vergini
Nov 17, 2019 12:16 PM
Sante Vergini
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Luis, I understand some people deploy techniques to increase their contributions and thus influence. One of those techniques is to end comments/replies with a question, hoping to draw another response, and when the reply comes in, they respond with yet another question. I have noticed you seem to do this in almost every comment or reply you make. In keeping with your topic: "Ask or Answer", it certainly appears that you prefer to ask (and ask again) than to answer.
Nov 17, 2019 2:46 PM
Rami Kaibni
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Luis

I thought I answered this already. I will try again: There is no black and white or general approach to this. It is purely a situation based approach.

RK
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