5 Questions Every PM Should be Prepared For

3 Questions Project Managers Need to Prepare for in Project Updates

Picture of By: Steve McBroom, CEO,  Traxidy

By: Steve McBroom, CEO, Traxidy

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Here are some of the tough questions we’ve encountered from our Project Sponsors during project status update meetings and ways you can be prepared to answer them. We’ve also listed the related and unspoken questions that are implied and can be read-into based on the questions that were asked in the meeting.

These are the questions that Project Sponsors often ask and that Project Managers need to have answers for. ‘Forewarned is forearmed’, so let’s get prepared! We’ll review each of these questions in detail.

  1.  What was the overall project status (Green, Yellow or Red) a few weeks ago?
  2.  Why has the project end date moved?
  3.  What are the biggest risks threatening the success of this project?

the best way to handle questions coming from a Sponsor or Executive – is to ensure the question is never asked in the first place!

We should begin by saying that the best way to handle all the ‘got-ya!’ questions coming from a Sponsor or Executive – is to ensure the question is never asked in the first place!

As Project Managers, we know questions will always come up. The best way to approach any project status meeting is to ensure you are prepared with the right information. You need to have the answers to the important questions before starting, so you can easily and confidently answer the questions during the meeting. Of course, afterwards, sending out or making the project status report available for the people in the meeting, is always a good idea.

Remember, keeping your Project Sponsor informed and engaged throughout the entire project is a key aspect of project success because, through “consistent engagement and support, project momentum will stay steady and success is more likely.”

Your Best Approach for Project Status Meetings

Your best approach for each project status meeting is to try to have all the project information prepared to support any of the obvious questions (like the ones above) in mind. The standard set of information presented in the project status report should reduce the number of questions in the meeting and help to ensure you are seen as a more prepared Project Manager.

So in no particular order, here are 3 questions Project Sponsors or Key Stakeholders often ask during a project status meeting and how to be prepared to answer them.

1. What was the overall project status (Green, Yellow or Red) a few weeks ago?

The question of how overall project status has changed over time is key to understanding the progress of your project. We can’t assume everyone will follow the project status reports and updates over time. 

Remember, that most status reports only show the view of the project as it is, right now. That’s okay. The best way to answer the historical project status question is to always show the previous status color and details, along with the current project status. An even better representation of the project status would be to present the status or color of the project over time, along with the dates the project has changed status. A good project status report clearly shows why the project is the color it is, and if the project is Yellow or Red, the steps planned to return the project to Green status.

The “unspoken” question:What has been the status trend on this project, over time?”

All projects have their ups and downs. The project status trend can be a tell-tale sign that a project is floundering or could be in major trouble, if in fact the project has gone back and forth between Green and Red, or if the project has been Red or Yellow during most of its delivery. The answer is, as above, to show the status trend over time.

2. Has the project end date moved from the original planned end date?

We assume that the Project Sponsor will know that a project end date has moved, and a question regarding an end date change, will often come from another Key Stakeholder.

Always be prepared to highlight a new Project End Date, before the question is asked

Some reports simply show the Project End Date without a clear reference that the end date in the current report, has actually changed from a previous report. Even more challenging, is when the Project End Date has changed multiple times and there is no easy way to show and explain the record of all the changes. The best approach is for the project status report to clearly show the Original Project End Date and if the date has changed, the report includes an Approved Revised End Date as well. You should also be able to reference all the date changes to this point.

The end date for a project is a critical piece of information, and Sponsors and other Key Stakeholders are usually keenly aware of this date. Always be prepared to highlight a new Project End Date, before the question is asked, and present a concise reference as to why the change was made, how it was approved, who approved it, and when.


The “unspoken” question: “If we had a strong plan for this project to start, what caused the end date to change?”

This is a much bigger question and one that could reach into the organizational process of project delivery. The project status meeting is not the time or place, to answer this question. It’s always best to stick to the facts about why the change was made. Be sure to reiterate the process the change went through to be approved and the details regarding the people and groups involved with making the decision.

3. What are the biggest risks threatening the success of this project?

Every project has risks, and every good Project Manager keeps a risk log of all the risks they’ve collected. The biggest risks are typically those with the highest probability of occurring while having the highest impact on the project. Having an easy to use project Risk Assessment tool, improves the chance of successful project completion, and will keep track of your risk planning and risk ownership as well.

The “unspoken” question: “Can you show me how you are managing risks for this project?”

The experienced Project Manager will tell you that the time used to collect and work with risks, is like a kind of insurance on the success of the project. Sometimes it pays off and will provide you with the advantage of being more prepared if issues arise. At other times, it does not appear to be needed. Regardless, most Sponsors want to know you have made an effort to consider risks and have a clear explanation of how you have, or will, collect and manage risks for their project.


These are just a very few of the questions we have heard from Project Sponsors while in project status meetings. Having the right tools and a Project Manager App that has all your project information organized in one place, helps to reinforce your ability as a great Project Manager and enable you to answer the tough questions, anytime.

Learn more about Traxidy work tracking software and how it can help you save time and easily track, manage and report on all your project work to support the project plan and Project Issues, Action Items, Risks, Changes, Status, and more.  And be sure to ‘Follow’ us on LinkedIn or Facebook.

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