Questions of Every Project

project management 101

Occasionally, you may find yourself partway into a project before you step back and consider what the real goals are and what you’re really trying to accomplish. However, by thinking about your work in connection with the fundamentals of project management, you may find more success.

In this 5 Ws guide you will discover,

This post is a great reminder about project management basics and reminds us to keep in mind the questions we should ask when taking on a new project.

When your project starts to get complicated it's time go to back to the fundamentals. With all the methods, practices, principles, tools, and techniques out there at the disposal of the project manager, you can often forget the fundamental principles of project management.

What are the 5 Ws?

The  Five Ws, Five Ws and one H, or the  Six Ws  are questions whose answers are considered basic in information-gathering. They include Who, What, When Where, and Why. The 5 Ws are often mentioned in journalism (cf. news style), research, and police investigations. They constitute a formula for getting the complete story on a subject.

According to the principle of the Five Ws, a report can only be considered complete if it answers these questions starting with an interrogative word:

Some authors add a sixth question, "how", to the list, though "how" can also be covered by "what", "where", or "when":

Each question should have a factual answer — facts necessary to include for a report to be considered complete. Importantly, none of these questions can be answered with a simple "yes" or "no".

It's the kind of inquiry that is taught to children when they're about to embark on a writing assignment. And much like children, we must demonstrate the same kind of dogged persistence and determination they often exhibit when they are trying to learn something new.

Examples of the 5 Ws in project management.

Think about answering these 5 Ws before you start any project:

  1. Why?  Though it seems so obvious, I've often been part of projects where the why question was never asked! I think sometimes you get so used to being assigned projects with little to no evaluation, let alone business case justification, that the fundamental question of "Why are we doing this project" does not get asked. Really delving into this question allows you to get at the drivers and benefits that the project is to deliver. This will allow you to deliver a project to your customer and stakeholders' satisfaction.
  2. What?  This is really the first question you ask when you're trying to gather requirements for your project to define the scope. It gets no simpler than "What do we do?"
  3. Who?  Who are your stakeholders, team, customer that you will work on, your sponsor and ultimately the benefit from when your project is completed?
  4. When?  Sometimes this question gets asked before all the questions we discussed above get answered. You need to know why, what and who will be part of your project before you can adequately answer when it will get completed.
  5. Where?  Then after all is said and done, where will your project be done? Where will it be delivered? With today's global and dispersed environments, this question is not as simple as it may seem.

Now that all your core questions have been answered can you answer the question of "how" you will complete your project? This is really where the methods, practices, tools, and techniques get deployed... but not until you have answered in detail the 5 Ws first.

Frequently asked questions for 5 Ws.

Why are the five Ws important?

The five W questions are important because they help establish the framework of any project. Once you have established the answers to the ‘who, what, when, where and why’, you’ll then have a clear picture of the tasks in front of you. With all the basic information you need, you can tackle the project successfully.

What is the 5W1H approach?

The 5W1H approach is another term for the 5 W questions but includes the sixth question, the all-important ‘How?’ How is often the critical part of the entire project management process and shouldn’t be missed out. When you know all the details of the project, the how looks at issues such as deliverables, budget, challenges and more.

Who asks the ‘who, what, when, where, why and how’ questions?

This depends on the structure of the operational team. Usually it’s the job of the Project Manager to ask the 5 Ws and 1 H questions, which could, in real terms, mean several different questions under each category. Other team members will have input, but the Project Manager should be in control of gathering information, and sharing it, to all involved.