Back to Basics (Part 3): Kick-Start Your Projects with the 5Ws and 2Hs

So why should you care about answering these seven questions at all? Because as a project manager it’s your job to create a structure in which your team can deliver a successful project. It shows stakeholders and sponsors that they can have confidence in the project’s successful delivery, and it’s also a great way to motivate the team as it’s a sign that the project is actually feasible and they’ll be able to see results. These seven questions are also a great way to solve problems more effectively and help you deliver better status reports.

So what are these 5Ws and 2Hs exactly and how can they help kick-start your project?

Where

This is the first question you need to ask, because it helps you analyze your current situation and define where you want to go:  

  • Where are we standing right now?
  • Where are we headed to?

Clarify whether you’re happy or unhappy with the current situation. If you’re not satisfied with where you’re standing now then identify the point at which you could say, “Yes, this is it. This is where we wanted to be and now we’ve reached that point”.

What

This question helps you define your objectives and what you need to consider if you want to achieve your goals. The questions you should ask yourself are:

  • What do we want to achieve?
  • What are we trying to do?
  • What do we need?
  • What are the constraints?

It’s important to have a clearly defined goal because without it your team won’t have a guideline. They won’t be able to work effectively if they don’t know what is expected of them. Remember to ask yourself these questions from time to time during the project’s progress.

Who

Now that you’ve clarified your objectives, define who your stakeholders are:

  • Who is directly or indirectly involved in the project?
  • Who has an interest in the successful completion of the project and who benefits from it?  

Each stakeholder has different motives and interests which often compete with each other. It’s impossible to meet all demands, but by analyzing your stakeholders you will be able to identify the most important ones for your project, i.e. the ones that are decision makers and who you should keep as happy as possible.

When

Time is an important aspect in project management. But it’s not just about completing the project on time, it’s also about ‘timing’:

  • When will we start?
  • By when do we have to produce deliverables?

You need to identify the best time for the project to start, the wrong timing can cause a great project to fail. But it’s not enough to just identify a start and completion date, but also to set milestones which help you keep track of the project’s progress and make sure that you’re still on schedule.

Why

Sometimes you start a project with a lot of enthusiasm and motivation, but during the course of it it’s easy to lose sight of the reason you started the project in the first place. This is when you need to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why is this project important?
  • Why is this necessary?

If the answers to these questions are negative, i.e. you can’t find a good reason to continue the project, then you need to analyze whether it’s feasible to save the project by steering into another direction, or whether it isn’t better to just let it go.

How

Now that you’ve identified your objectives and clarified the reasons as to why you want to implement the project, you need to identify the steps you need to take to complete the project successfully:

  • How can we implement the project successfully?
  • How can we achieve our objectives most effectively?

Break down bigger tasks into smaller, more manageable tasks and assign the right tasks to the right team members.

How much

The last detail you need to clarify is the financial aspect:

  • How much will it cost?
  • How big is my budget?

Costs are one of the three constraints of project management. The objective of every project is to keep costs as low as possible and deliver the project within the set budget, so it’s extremely important to create an accurate budget estimate based on the identified project costs.