Every project manager must get Project Plan Approval before they begin work. That includes getting the “go-ahead” for the plan, schedule and budget for a new project. Even if you have been working closely with the sponsor and stakeholders, there is still the need to persuasively present the information you have spent so much time developing. Too many project managers approach these meetings as “data dumps” where all they have to do is recite the scope, budget and schedule highlights and the executives will automatically give their approval.
A better approach is to anticipate the questions the decision-makers will ask you about your data. There are two questions that have been asked in every project approval meeting since the dawn of time.
First, the executives want to know how the project can finish earlier. Second, they want to know how the projects’ cost can be reduced. If the project manager doesn’t have answers to these questions, in the form of alternative ways of doing the project, the executives will make arbitrary changes to the budget and schedule. Then they’ll tell the project manager to find ways to make it happen.
You need to be prepared to handle these questions with “trade-off options” so your project has a chance of success. The trade-offs will give the executives data about how the project can finish earlier and deliver the scope for less cost. Specifically, you need to have modeled options for finishing 10% and 20% earlier and delivering the scope for 10% and 20% less than the budget you submitted for their approval. You need to have these alternatives ready to present in the project approval meeting. If you don’t provide the data, the executives will arbitrarily decide that you can finish the project 20% earlier without additional people or budget.
The result of being unable to respond to the inevitable questions about finishing earlier and spending less money is that you leave the project approval meeting with a project that is doomed to fail.
Here is a video about how to answer difficult questions from executives.
You can learn all of those skills in our project management basics courses. Take a look at the basics course in your industry specialty.