Project Management Scenario Interview Questions

Most often the aspiring project managers, both new and seasoned, will have to demonstrate the possession of the relevant experience, right knowledge and clear understanding about their project management capability in an interview.The interviewers most often can ask a variety of questions to gauge your understanding and grasp on the subject. And they expect meaningful and articulated responses to the questions. Without saying, this can become really tricky for even the most experienced project managers.We have created below an exhaustive set of questions with answers on project management which covers the entire project life cycle, starting from initiation of the project to closure of project. These questions and answers are designed such that to help you to articulate your responses in the interview in the most logical manner with right content.The questions and answers are developed with six different scenarios.

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Basic & Advance

Knowledge Area:Project Integration Management

As a PM, I need to understand the objectives and the goals of the project clearly. I need to establish a formal understanding with my sponsor and other key stakeholders about the project needs to be fulfilled, objectives and final goals to be achieved. I will seek formal authorization for starting the new project. I also need to start identifying all the stakeholders of the project, both within our organization and also from the client side.

Two documents namely project charter and stakeholder register are prepared during project initiation.

  1. Project charter is initiated by the sponsor to officially appoint the PM and also to establish the agreed project objectives and goals.
  2. Stakeholder register is prepared to capture the detailed list of all project stakeholders, with all relevant information about the stakeholders.

Knowledge Area:Project Integration Management 

Since this is the initial stage of the project, I will seek more information about the project from the sponsor and business development team of our organization. If needed, I will also plan discussions with other key stakeholders to understand the reasons for doing this project and to understand the business needs and expected outcomes from the project.

Knowledge Area:Project Integration Management 

Since this project is to be done for an external client, there must be an agreement/contract already signed between the client and our organization. I will request to get access to a copy of the contract. I will also request to see a copy of our proposal and internal estimation done by our team before signing the contract. The contract/agreement will provide more information about the expected goals of the customer. From the contract I can understand about the scope of the project, and other constraints such as time and cost which are being agreed.

Knowledge Area:Project Integration Management 

As a PM, I will need support from senior management from time to time with regards to mobilising resources, getting the funding in time, coordinating with other functional groups for project work and making various project decisions in a timely manner etc. I will look forward to my sponsor for his/her support on above matters as needed. I will explain about the importance of his/her timely and unstinted support for the project success and request for the same.

Knowledge Area:Project Stakeholder Management

Yes, very much. I will need to know about all the stakeholders in the project in hand.

Knowledge Area:Project Stakeholder Management 

Stakeholders are the real people or groups or organizations whose interests have to be fulfilled through the project. Project is being undertaken to fulfil stakeholder expectations and needs. Hence knowing them and engaging them through the project right from initiation will be critical for project success.

Knowledge Area:Project Stakeholder Management 

Stakeholders are all the people or organizations or groups who are directly involved in the project, whose interests may be positively or negatively impacted by the outcome of the project, who can influence and impact the project with their power and money.

A stakeholder register is prepared. We can identify the stakeholders by asking the following questions to ourselves –

  1. Who will use the end product/solution created from the project
  2. Who will help with their skills and knowledge in developing the final product of the project
  3. Who will give the requirements for the project
  4. Who will provide funding for the project
  5. Who will provide other kind of support
  6. Who will provide resources for the project
  7. Who will provide any kind of special guidelines or regulations to be followed/complied to while working in the project

Knowledge Area:Project Stakeholder Management 

We need to make an exhaustive list of all stakeholders who will be somehow connected with the project. Once the list of stakeholders is prepared, there is a need to prioritize the stakeholders in terms of their significance in the project.

One of the practical and popular methods for analysing the stakeholders is analysing and assessing their level of power and interest in the project. The stakeholders are classified into different groups such as:

  1. How Power – High Interest,
  2. High Power – Low Interest,
  3. Low Power – High Interest and
  4. Low Power – Low Interest groups.

This helps in prioritizing their positions in the project, which in turn will be helpful in devising appropriate stakeholder engagement strategies for each group.

For more detailed understanding about stakeholder management, refer: Stakeholder Management

Knowledge Area:Project Integration Management 

  • Business case document – 

Understanding the financial feasibility and reasons of doing a new project is important. Business case provides a detailed financial analysis of investments to be made and benefits to be reaped from the project with a final justification either to do or not do a project. Business case document is one of the first documents to be referred for an internal project to be initiated.

  • Agreement –    KA Project Integration Management

A document which is a contract signed with an external customer and is used for initiating a new project. This document will lay the boundaries of the new project with regard to the scope, time and cost and the agreed terms and conditions between the requesting organization and performing organization. It is one of the initial documents the project manager will like to refer to understand about the project.

  • Project charter –     KA Project Integration Management

This is the very first initial document of any new project getting initiated. Project charter establishes the formal authorization for the new project. This document will lay down the objectives of the project, the name of the PM and will be approved by the initiator/sponsor. The business case and/or the agreement will be referred while preparing the project charter document.

Please refer to the link for more details on this: Project Charter

  • Stakeholder register –         KA – Project Stakeholder Management

This is a very important document which is used to list all the stakeholders and all the relevant information about each stakeholder. This document is also used to include the information about their interest and power towards the project, their current levels of engagement such as resistor, neutral or supporter of the project. This is one of the first documents created during the project initiation. This is a live dynamic document. As new stakeholders are identified through the project life cycle, their relevant information will be added into the stakeholder register.

Knowledge Area: Project Scope Management

  • The detailed project requirements will have to be collected from the various stakeholders. In the case of an ERP, we need to collect requirements from all levels of stakeholders. We need to understand the expectations of CXO level stakeholders, department head level stakeholders, departmental experts, end users of the solution in each department, from their IT department who later on will own the solution.
  • The requirements will have to be collected and understood through different mode of interaction with the stakeholders. Stakeholders initially may not know very clearly about all their requirements. Some cases stakeholders may find it difficult to explain and articulate their requirements. The project manager and the team will have to drive this process of requirements gathering by facilitating and driving the process.
  • Requirements are collected from groups of stakeholders and the final concurrence and agreement of requirements are also done with the group of stakeholders. Business Analysts and functional experts may be involved in this process. Below are some of the techniques which are used for requirement gathering
    • Data Gathering (Brainstorming, Benchmarking, Focus Groups, Interviews, Questionnaires and Surveys)
    • Data Analysis (Analysing various existing documents of the project such as business case, agreement, regulatory documents, proposals etc.)
    • Observation (Shadowing and observing how people are working)
    • Categorizing and grouping of ideas and requirements (Affinity Diagram)
    • Prioritizing the requirements (Nominal Group Technique – Voting with the group. Using MuScoW and other techniques of prioritization )
    • Prototyping
  • A detailed requirement document is prepared using the above techniques as applicable. The requirements thus gathered can further be classified in various categories such as functional, non-functional, reliability, security, user interface related, quality, and regulatory, transition etc. Such classification will make it easier for the team to visual different aspects of the requirements and accordingly give appropriate focus in addressing them.
  • For more detailed understanding of this process, please refer:Requirement collection

Knowledge Area: Project Scope Management 

The requirements are collected in consultation with various stakeholders. Once the requirements are agreed, the project team will have to develop the end product/solution and make sure that all the requirements are fulfilled and nothing is missed.

When the project team is finally ready with the product and will be seeking final acceptance from stakeholders, it is often observed that few requirements may be missing. Having missing requirements at this stage will become a serious issue. The missing requirement will have to be immediately addressed and completed. It may require huge amount of rework in some cases and lot of unnecessary embarrassment for the team.

A requirement traceability matrix is used to address this phenomenon of missing requirements. Mostly requirements may be missing because of human error and oversight. A well designed traceability matrix will track each requirement in every phase of development. And will ensure a phase cannot be closed unless all the requirements initially collected have been successfully taken care of in the phase. This way, the team will track every requirement before closing each phase. This enables the team to ensure that no requirement misses the attention of the team and goes unnoticed to the next phases.

This is a very simple mechanism, but a powerful and effective mechanism to ensure that every requirement gathered initially gets delivered finally without any miss during the development phase.

Knowledge Area:Project Integration Management 

  • A project plan is a comprehensive document which contains detailed information about how the project will be executed, how the project will be monitored and finally how the project will be closed. A project plan is similar to a blueprint or a guideline for the team to be followed during the project.
  • Project planning is a structured approach to develop an integrated project plan by developing and integrating the subsidiary plans of scope, schedule, cost, resources, quality, communication, risk, procurement and stakeholder.

The final project plan will include the above subsidiary plans. It will also include the detailed project scope, detailed schedule and detailed cost estimates and expenditure plan. These are referred as the scope, schedule and cost baselines.

The project plan also will include the project life cycle and the associated phases, change management plan, configuration management plan etc.

  • The project planning will be carried out by the project manager by taking the help of the core team members who will assist in developing the different components of the plan. The core team will also assist in estimating. The team will refer to the project charter document to understand the initial constraints of scope, time and cost as laid down. The detailed plan will be prepared to meet these constraints or goals.

The team will first start with elaborating the project scope, developing estimates for duration, cost and resources for each activity or work package in the project scope. In addition the team will also prepare a risk management plan, risk responses, communication management plan, quality management plan, stakeholder engagement plan, and procurement management plan to complete the overall project plan.

  • Once the detailed project plan is prepared by the team, the plan finally gets approved by the sponsor or by the customer. The approved plan will have the scope, time and cost baselines approved. The project baselines will be used as a reference for measuring performance once project execution begins. Any deviation from these baselines will be treated as project variances. These baselines form the boundary of the so called triple constraints.

Knowledge Area: Project Scope Management

  • WBS (Work breakdown structure) is the most important tool & technique for understanding and organizing the complete project scope. The WBS later is used for developing a more robust and clear project plan.
  • The project scope is the most fundamental aspect of the project. During project initiation, the project scope will be defined in very high level as an objective statement such as “Implement the HR, Finance and Inventory modules of ERP within 12 months”.
  • It is important to define and refine the project objective and project requirements. Thereafter the team needs to elaborate the project scope in detail. Project scope will include all the deliverables of the project and all the associated work that needs to be done to fulfil all the requirements.
  • WBS is a hierarchical decomposition of project work into smaller and more manageable components (called work package) to include all the project work to complete the project successfully. A WBS helps the team not only to understand the project scope in detail; it also is used by the team for the following:
    • Estimating the duration, cost and resource for each smaller component with higher accuracy
    • Clearly assign roles and responsibilities of different work components among the team members
    • Develop an Organization Breakdown Structure (OBS) based on the WBS
    • Monitor and track each work package with clarity
    • Identify project risk much more comprehensively for each group of work packages
  • The above points are the benefits of making a WBS. A good WBS leads to a very credible and accurate project plan, which will facilitate smooth execution of work and meaningful tracking of progress. If there is no WBS, essentially there is no meaningful and credible project management. Hence WBS is the most fundamental part of the overall project management plan.
  • For more clear understanding refer:Work breakdown structure
  • Also refer to this to know more on scope planning, Project scope definition

Knowledge Area : Project Schedule Management

Once the project scope of work is well understood and captured in the form of a work breakdown structure, then all these work packages will have to be scheduled to complete all the work as per an overall time deadline. All the work packages (which are smaller deliverables) are further decomposed into activities, all the activities are sequenced based on the dependencies between them, duration estimation of each task is done and finally a project schedule is prepared.

The project schedule will look like a network diagram connecting all the activities from the beginning till the end. There will be multiple paths in the network diagram, since there will be many parallel tasks also running (where there is no dependency), with different scheduled activities. Activities in all the paths of the project network will have to be completed to complete the project.

The overall minimum project duration to complete all the work will be the duration of the path having the longest duration. This path with longest duration is the minimum time to complete the project as a whole. This longest path is referred as “critical path”.

“Critical path” is the most important path to monitor. All the activities on the critical path must be completed in time to complete the project in time. Hence the only rational and clear method for completing the project in time is to ensure that all the critical activities (all activities on critical path) must not be delayed and must be completed in time.

Hence identification and management of the “critical path” is a must for completing the project in a timely manner. There is no flexibility as such on the critical path.

For more detailed understanding of critical path, refer to: critical path method cpm

Knowledge Area: Project Cost Management

Cost estimating is the process of identifying all the cost drivers and arriving at the total monetary amount needed to be provisioned for completing the project. The resources to be used for developing the ERP solution will cost money. Cost estimation will take into account all the resource cost (man power, machine, material, facilities etc.).

Cost budgeting is the process of identifying the cumulative expenditures at major milestones of the project by aggregating the individual cost estimates over a time. This process includes dividing the total project estimate against the project schedule and prepares an expenditure plan and arrives at the funding requirements at different stages of the project. Cost budgeting will help the management to accordingly arrange for funds in a timely manner for the project.

Knowledge Area:Project Resource Management

The project will require various kinds of resources such as:

  • Human resources (Business analysts, Technical Experts, Developers, Testers etc.)
  • Machines (Equipment, Hardware, Software etc.) (Development and Test Environment)
  • Materials
  • Facilities (Office space, Labs, storage and warehouse etc.)

Resource needed for the project have to be estimated diligently. Typically resource estimation will be done at the activity level and the entire resource requirement for all activities will be aggregated to arrive at the total resource requirement.

Project resource estimate (quantity and duration) will become the major input for completing the project cost estimate.

Knowledge Area: Project Resource Management 

Once the project execution begins, it will be important to clearly assign roles and responsibilities among the various team members. Multiple people and stakeholders may be involved in every task. Hence clarity on who will be doing what is very important to eliminate all kinds of ambiguity.

RACI is a matrix based responsibility assignment chart for the above purpose. The possible roles include “responsible”, “accountable”, “consult”, and “inform” as per this chart. RACI charts are used extensively as this is one of the most popular matrix based responsibility chart.

For more detailed understanding, please refer: Raci chart tool

Knowledge Area: Project Risk Management 

Risks are uncertain events which may occur during the project bringing about a positive or negative impact on the project objectives of scope, time, cost and quality. If the event brings a positive impact, they are referred to as positive risks or opportunities, and if the event brings a negative impact, they are referred to as negative risks or threats.

Risks are potential future events or situations which may occur during the project life cycle. Managing such events proactively is critical to manage the project successfully. Risk management will thus include maximising the opportunities and minimising the threats.

Risk management steps will include the following:

  • Identify risks
  • Analyse risks (their probability and impact)
  • Prioritize risks
  • Develop risk responses proactively for opportunities and threats

A risk register document is prepared which contains all the risk events, their probability and impact, ranking and response plan for each of the risk event. The risk register document becomes an important reference for completing the overall project schedule and cost estimates.

For better understanding of Project Risk Management, refer: Project risk management

Knowledge Area:Project Integration Management

Cost of quality includes all the cost incurred to ensure that the customer has a quality product. It includes the cost of conforming to quality and cost not conforming to quality.

Cost of conformance includes cost of all the proactive steps taken to ensure quality. It includes prevention and appraisal cost.

Cost of non-conformance includes all the cost incurred in rework, scrap, replacement, warranty, failure cost etc.

Cost of conformance is the investments made to ensure the cost of non-conformance to be very minimal.

Knowledge Area:Project Procurement Management

  • How do you plan for your procurements?

We will quickly do a make or buy analysis. We check our existing resource pool and capabilities to decide if we can do the entire development or we will need some kind of assistance from third parties. IF we will realize that we need to outsource some development work or if we realize that we may have to augment our team by hiring some expert staff members contractually for the project, we will need to plan for procurement. We need to clearly decide and define what we need to procure.

To know more about procurement management, refer our article at: procurement management

  • What are the different types of bid documents you may be preparing for procurement management?

Once we decide what we need to procure, may it be man power or may it be outsourcing a chunk of work, we will have to develop a statement of work. We also will have to identify other terms and conditions which we expect the suppliers to fulfil. We also need to identify clear criteria for selecting the suppliers. We than need to put all these information in a formal document referred as a bid document.

Some of the popular bid documents include request for proposal (RFP), request for quote (RFQ), request for information (RFI), request for bid (RFB) etc.

The above documents as appropriate then will be floated and shared with prospective bidders/suppliers so that they can understand our requirements and can prepare a proposal for us.

To know more about them, refer our article at: procurement documents

  • What contract types you will be using for engaging with suppliers and contractors for different procurements?

There will be a need for getting into a formal agreement with the selected suppliers. These agreements will be legally binding agreements for safeguarding the interests and rights of both sides, while defining the obligations of both sides as well.

There are a number of contract types which exist, and can be appropriately selected in different situations. Broadly the contract types include the following:

  1. Fixed Price Contract
  2. Time and Material Contract
  3. Cost Reimbursable Contract

To know more about contract types, you can refer our article at: project contract types

Knowledge Area:Project Stakeholder Management

  • How do you plan for stakeholder engagement?

Once the stakeholders are identified and listed in the stakeholder register, we also do a stakeholder analysis using power-interest grid to segregate them into different groups so that we can develop appropriate engagement strategies for each group of stakeholders. Below are the high level strategies we adopt to engage them:

  • High Power – High Interest -   Manage closely
  • High Power – Low Interest  - Keep satisfied
  • Low Power – High Interest  - Keep informed
  • Low Power – Low Interest  - Monitor

The above helps us to prioritize our attention and efforts accordingly.

  • What are a stakeholder engagement matrix and the usage of the same?

While developing the stakeholder engagement strategies, it is also important to quickly check the current level of engagement of each stakeholder and the desired level of engagement of each of them for project success. Once we identify the current level and desired level of engagement for each stakeholder, we can then define very specific actions which will help us to move the stakeholders to the desired level of engagement.

The stakeholders may fall in one of five levels of engagements such as “unaware”, “resistant”, “neutral”, “supportive” and “leading”.

Below is a matrix:

Stakeholders
Unaware
Resistant
Neutral
Supporting
Leading
Stakeholder 1
C

D
Stakeholder 2

CD

Stakeholder 3


CD

The above matrix once prepared, provides clarity to the team to define right actions and strategies for moving each of the stakeholders from their “Current” level to “Desired” level of engagement.

Knowledge Area: Project Communication Management

  • How do you plan for communication?

Communication is the only way of engaging with stakeholders. Right information should be sent to the right stakeholder at the right time in a manner preferred by the stakeholder. A communication approach should be developed for effective and efficient information sharing to attain the required level of stakeholder engagement.

There are various types of communication such as written, verbal and non-verbal. Information can be shared using different technologies or medium. Information can be shared using various methods such as interactive, push and pull. Each stakeholder may have specific information need and may have specific preference in terms of how the information should be shared with them. We need to understand their preferences and accordingly prepare a communication plan.

A communication plan will include:

  • Who needs information?
  • What information do they need?
  • When the information is needed including frequency?
  • How the information will be sent to them?
  • Who in the team will be responsible for sending the needed information?

Please refer this link for more information on communication planning,communication management

Knowledge Area:Project Integration Management

Once the plan is ready, the immediate first things to be done during execution will be to identify and acquire the right resources for the project and also select the appropriate contractors/suppliers for the project work. It is the team and the suppliers who will be actually doing the project work. Assigning responsibilities to different team members and suppliers for different pieces of the project work is extremely important.

During the project execution, the project manager will have to act as a leader, working closely with the project sponsor, other stakeholders, with team, with other peers in the organization. The project manager will have to use mostly the inter personal skills, communication skills during project execution.

Knowledge Area:Project Integration Management

During project execution stage, the project manager will be doing the following important activities, which are some of the core responsibilities of the project manager:

  • Acquire the right resources for the project
  • Select and bring on board the most suitable suppliers and contractors as needed
  • Assign roles and responsibilities among the team
  • Lay down the Quality Management processes and standards to be followed by the team for creating the final deliverables
  • Implement all the risk responses
  • Initiate and ensure constant communication with all stakeholders as per the communication management plan
  • Start engaging with all stakeholders understanding their needs and expectations and building relationship with them ensuring their support for the project
  • Do team building, maintain team motivation
  • Ensure that the team is using all existing knowledge and also documenting new lessons learnt through the development of project work
  • Keep conducting audits to check process and quality standards compliance

Knowledge Area:Project Resource Management 

  • The project will require both man power and other physical resources to be acquired for the project work. The man power resources will be acquired from within the organization, from different functional groups and common resource pools. If the man power resource needs are completely fulfilled from internal sources, then the PM will have to initiate the process of acquiring them from outside agencies on a contractual basis.
    The PM will be responsible for actively negotiating with various resource owners within the organization and select the best possible resources for the project. The same selection mechanism should be exercised while selecting man power from outside agencies. The team members possessing the required skills and competencies need to be carefully selected.
    The project manager will also have to ensure other resources such as material and machines are made available either from internal sources or through procurement. The PM will have to plan really well for procurements by working closely with the procurement department of the organization.

  • Resource acquisition first will happen from internal sources and later from external sources. IF the organization is a functional or a matrix organization, resource acquisition from internal sources will be quite challenging for the PM, since the resources by default will be part of other groups. The PM will have to actively negotiate with the functional managers and other resource owners for assigning the right man power resources to the project. The PM may need to take the help of the project sponsor also in this regard.
    If it is a functional or a weak-matrix organization, the PM will definitely have a challenging task in getting the right resources assigned to the project. If it is strong-matrix organization, the PM will have more authority and will have a stronger say in resource allocation. If it is a projectized organization, then the project manager will have lot of authority to select the resources of choice with full authority and freedom. But in case of projectized organization, most of the resources may have to hired from outside, which may take a good amount of lead time for hiring.  Hence good upfront planning for hiring will have to be put in place to ensure the resources come on board well in time as per the project plan.

Knowledge Area:Project Resource Management 

Project teams are always new teams, as each project is a new project. The PM will start forming the team by selecting and acquiring the right team members, either from internal sources from external sources. It is important for the project manager to ensure that this newly formed team works as a great team, with immense trust and cohesiveness to achieve the project goals. The project manager also have to ensure that each team member is giving 100 % of their efforts to the project work and all are happy and motivated.

When we form a new project team, initially the team will not behave as a great team. The team spirit will not be present initially. It takes time for the team to evolve into a great team. Typically every new team will evolve through the stages of forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning as per Tuckman ladder. This is where the project manager will have to act as a leader helping and guiding the team  to evolve to its peak performance stage. The PM plans various team building activities providing an opportunity to the team members to start knowing each other well and developing a better team spirit and trust.

The project will also have to ensure that each team member is giving his/her best for the project. The PM will have to monitor the performance of each team member, give feedback as needed to ensure their best performance. Ensure that every member in the team is motivated and inspired.

Knowledge Area:Project Resource Management

Motivation of the team is one of the most important aspects for project success. The PM will have to ensure that the team as a whole is inspired and motivated. Each team member is also motivated to give his/her best performance for the project success.

Motivation is a psychological phenomenon. Different things may motivate different person. The PM will need have clear understanding about this phenomenon and how motivation works and how we can motivate different individuals.

There are many formal theories on motivation each one explaining a very important aspect of motivation. Generally fulfilling the needs of people, providing them a challenging and invigorating environment to work; providing them appropriate rewards in a timely manner are critical factors in motivating people.

Some of the important theories include Maslow’s Theory, McGregor’s Theory, Hertzberg’s Theory, McClelland’s Theory, Vroom’s Expectancy Theory. As a PM one need to understand the underlying concepts and philosophies behind is theories and use them effectively for motivation.

For more information on this, you can refer: rewards and recognition

Knowledge Area:Project Resource Management 

  1. Conflicts are differences in opinion or disagreements between team members or stakeholders. Few points about conflicts
    • Conflicts are natural and inevitable when multiple people start working together.
    • Conflicts are seen as a means of encouraging diverse views and ideas within the team. Hence they can be constructive too.
    • Conflicts in project happen because of differences and disagreements related to:
      • Schedule
      • Resources
      • Priorities
      • Cost
      • Administrative issues
      • Technical opinions
      • Personality
  2. Conflicts can be best resolved by the parties involved in the conflict. The PM should create an environment of trust and respect within the team. The team members should be encouraged to resolve conflicts among themselves.

The manager can intervene if the conflicts are not getting resolved by the team members. While resolving conflicts, the care should be taken not only to resolve the conflict, but also to ensure that the team dynamics and harmony is maintained.

Some of the conflict management techniques used include the following:

  1. Confront/Problem Solve/ Collaborate (Best method - win – win outcome)
  2. Compromise (lose-lose outcome)
  3. Force (win-lose outcome)
  4. Avoid/Withdraw
  5. Smoothing/Accommodating

For more detailed information in conflict management, please refer our article: Conflict-management

Knowledge Area:Resource Management 

Virtual teams and international teams are a common phenomenon presently. Projects are global consisting of team members from across the globe. Project teams are geographically distributed, having the members operating from different locations.

Managing such distributed teams, it will be important to use technology effectively. Regular communication will be very important. Communication purpose, frequency and mechanism should be planned upfront. Colocation can also be used effectively as and when needed. These days it is possible to keep the team connected with proper communication planning

Knowledge Area:Resource Management 

The PM also acts as a leader. Leader’s role will be to guide the team, show direction, develop team spirit, motivate to achieve greater performance, help the team in case of adversity etc. There are different leadership styles.  Some of the important leadership styles include:

  • Autocratic
  • Democratic
  • Liaises Faire
  • Servant leadership

For more details on leadership, please refer: Management styles

Knowledge Area:Resource Management

There will be situations; the PM may find some of the team member’s performance is not up-to expectation and not meeting the expected performance needed for project success. The PM has to keep a very close observation about the performance of each team member. The moment the PM finds any kind of underperformance, the PM needs to immediately have some conversation with the team member. The PM needs to be careful and use empathy to understand the reason of underperformance. The PM should first try to provide all kinds of meaningful help, training and encouragement to the team member to improve his/her performance. The PM should also explore the possibility of changing the role of the team member within the project team based on his/her capability to see if that helps the member as well as the project. Initial discussion should be done somewhat informally. The PM should be judging the performance of the person, not the person itself. But if the underperformance still persists,  then the project manager may have to have some formal discussion and try to see if the resource can be changed with some other resource and the resource under consideration may be deployed into a more suitable role where his/her capabilities will fit the best. The PM must keep in mind that ultimately project is most important. Hence a delicate balance between ensuring project success and helping the underperforming team member to improve performance has to be done by the PM.

Knowledge Area:Procurement Management 

For some of the project work, there always may be a need for engaging some third party suppliers, contractors. During planning, the team would have already decided what to procure, and would have developed detailed specification of the procurement item or service. An RFP or RFQ is generally prepared during the procurement planning stage.

Before beginning execution, it will be important to share our detailed requirements through the RFP or RFQ document with potential suppliers. We need to request their response, proposal, and quotations.

Upon receiving the proposal, response and quotation from various suppliers, we need to evaluate their responses in an objective manner. We then need to invite the bidders with best proposals for final negotiation. After negotiation, the best seller/supplier is selected and an agreement is signed with them.

Negotiation is a difficult process. It should be kept in mind to ensure that the negotiations are done in a win-win manner ensuring the considerations and interests of both the sides are equally taken care of. After all, the selected supplier/seller becomes part of you extended team. Hence it should be seen more as a relationship rather than a transaction while negotiating the terms and conditions.

For more details you can refer our tutorial at,procurement management

Knowledge Area:Quality Management

Gold plating is a common phenomenon observed during execution. The development team may work on delivering more than what has been asked for or what is actually needed. The general thought behind gold plating is that it will make the customer feel happy since we are delivering more. But in the contrast a matured customer will not be happy. Instead may have doubts on our management capability as to how the team is able or willing to deliver more. In addition to this, gold plating if done, will lead to scope creep, which in turn will impact the project schedule and cost. The whole plan can go awry.

Hence it is highly recommended that the PM should be aware about this phenomenon and tendency of the team, and should discourage and prevent gold plating in a project scenario.

Knowledge Area:Quality Management

During quality management planning, the team decides the relevant standards and processes to be followed during product development including the reviews, testing etc. The PM will have to ensure that the team actually follows the chosen processes and standards for development. The PM also plans for regular quality audits for ensuring process compliance. Complying to the processes and standards ensures the team ends up developing the desired product without any defect. This method of ensuring quality through adherence to standards is known as quality assurance.

Knowledge Area:Stakeholder Management

Project stakeholders are identified during the project initiation stage itself. All the identified stakeholders are also analysed in terms of their power and interest with regards to the project in hand. Different strategies are planned for engaging the different groups of stakeholders.

Stakeholders with high authority and high interest in the project such as the sponsor, the customer and may be few other stakeholders need to be “Managed Closely”. The PM need to plan and use more frequent communication and engagement with such stakeholders in order to ensure that their authority is used effectively for the project decision making process and their interests are also best fulfilled.

The PM generally will plan a daily or weekly communication with such stakeholders with different agenda for each such communication. Face-to-face meetings, telephonic conversations are the best. Sharing important project information such as a plan, change requests, project documents and all kind of approvals must be done using formal written communication.

It will be important to ensure that such stakeholders are being constantly and closely managed. The PM will have to use excellent communication and interpersonal skills for such engagement.

Knowledge Area: Project Integration Management

  • Change requests are very common in a project. Change request is a request for changing some aspect of the project plan such as the scope, timeline, cost, resources, technology, requirements etc. Any change to the project baseline, is treated as a potential change request. Change requests in project context are also referred as “CR”. A CR may originate from any of the project stakeholders including the project team and project manager also.

The reasons for change requests in the middle of the project includes below points:

  1. The stakeholders realize that a new feature or requirement or new technology will be beneficial for the project
  2. Sometimes new regulatory requirements may come up and the project needs to comply to them leading changes in an already planned project
  3. Stakeholders may suddenly feel the need for changing the project time lines, project budget leading to change requests.
  4. Very often in the midst of the project, the team or stakeholders may feel the need for taking up some corrective or preventive actions if variances, issues and problems are faced by the project team. These are recommended for keeping the project on track and ensuring the project’s final outcome will remain relevant.
  5. Change requests are normal in the project. But it is important to adopt a discipline approach for handling all change requests. For that, a change management plan may be developed which will enlist the change management procedure. This can be shared with all relevant stakeholders. Change management process should be done in the most formal manner. All stakeholders must be educated and informed about the procedure during the project planning stage itself.

A change request can impact the project baselines and various other project documents and already developed project deliverables.

Typical steps to be followed will include the following:

  • Conduct a thorough impact analysis of the change request.  The impacts could be on multiple aspects of the project.
  • The findings from the impact analysis should be presented to the appropriate impacted stakeholders. And a discussion with the appropriate stakeholders which may include the sponsor, customer must be done. Idea is to make all the stakeholders aware about the impact and seek their approval after they understand the impacts.
  • IF the stakeholders approve the change request with the impacts, then the project manager need to work on updating the project management plan ensuring the impacts are properly reflected in the updated plan.
  • The updated plan should be approved by the sponsor.
  • Upon approval of the updated plan, the PM should execute the project as per the updated project plan and should start implementing the change.
  • In the process of implementing the change, various existing project artefacts will undergo change. It will be important to maintain the versions of such artefacts to maintain the history of changes in happening in each of the artefacts.  These are known as configurable items and the process is known as configuration management.
  • Some of the common challenges in handling change requests will include the following:
    • Formal change management plan may not be present
    • Stakeholders may tend to raise change requests in an informal manner
    • There may be conflict very often. What the project team will say is actually a change request, the customer and stakeholders many times may say that it is part of original scope. The project manager will have to discuss and resolve such situations and bring all stakeholders to a common understanding.
    • Frequent changes will be a challenge.
    • The project manager and team sometime may find it difficult to say “NO” to a change.
    • Accepting or rejecting a change request with their associated impacts will require immense negotiation between the PM, team and other stakeholders including the customer and sponsor.

Knowledge Area:Integration Management

Once the project execution begins, the work should progress as per plan. Hence it is important to track and review the progress, compare the actual performance with project baseline and find out the variances, if any.

If variances will be found, then the team needs to look for ways to not only correct the variances and but also see how similar variances will not occur in future.

Knowledge Area: Integration Management

Monitoring the progress and checking for variances should be done at a planned interval. The frequency of monitoring is also planned as part of project management plan. Various different kinds of monitoring activities at different levels of project hierarchy can be planned. There may be daily, weekly status meetings within the team planned for clear objectives for each such status meeting. There may be status meetings planned with customer and sponsor also.

Knowledge Area: Integration Management

Monitoring involves finding variances between actual project performances against the project baseline. Controlling means identifying recommended corrective, preventive actions and defect repairs for managing the variances.

Knowledge Area: Integration Management

The project performance will be monitored against the project baseline. Monitoring is done against the project scope baseline, schedule baseline, cost baseline, quality baseline to check if the project performance is matching the planned baseline in these areas.  Variances in scope, schedule, cost and quality are identified. Monitoring is also done to compare actual performance in other areas of the plan such how the communication happening, how the procurement happening, how is the stakeholder engagement, how are the resource performing etc.

The on-going project monitoring will also focus on successful work completion and acceptance of the project work. How much of the project scope of work is getting successfully delivered and accepted is a very important part of the project monitoring. This helps the team to keep checking off the completed work.

Knowledge Area: Integration Management

As part of monitoring and controlling, the project team will be preparing various reports. Some of the basic reports which are prepared include:

  • Status report
  • Progress report
  • Forecast report

Knowledge Area: Integration Management

Progress report focuses on work completion in the project so far. Status report focuses on variances in project performance so far.

Knowledge Area:Integration Management

While progress report and status report tell us where the project stands as of now, the Forecast report will tell eth details about the expected completion of the project based on actual performance so far.

Forecast report is very important which keeps informing the stakeholders about the expected completion time, cost of the project.

Knowledge Area:Integration Management

Variance is the difference between the actual project performances with the project baseline. Mathematically it can be explained as Plan – Actual.

Variances will be measure for time duration (on schedule, ahead of schedule or behind schedule), cost (on budget, over budget or under budget). These variances can be measured numerically using different techniques. Variances in other knowledge areas can be checked, but may not be measured numerically.

Knowledge Area: Cost Management

EVM is a technique which is used for numerically calculating the schedule and cost variance in a project. It is used for calculating the schedule and cost performance index of the project. This is also used for creating new cost and performance forecast for the project.

This technique used quantification of planned value (PV) of work at different points in project schedule, earned value (EV) of work (work actually completed) and actual cost (AC) of work completed.

It is simple, yet a very practical and effective technique for ascertaining the variances and performances of the project numerically so that the team can make meaningful forecast and also identify appropriate corrective actions for managing the variances.

Knowledge Area: Integration and Cost Management

Variance analysis is the method for calculating the variance between current performances of the project with the baseline. It will be done regularly to keep a track on the variances so that timely corrective actions can be taken.

Trend analysis is also done at regular interval but no so frequently as variance analysis. The idea is to identify if any patterns or trends are emerging in the project performances and variances over time. If trends will be spotted, then we need to understand the reasons for the trends and identify suitable preventive actions.

Knowledge Area: Integration Management

Corrective action is to correct the existing variance.  Preventive action is to ensure that similar current variances should not occur in future.

For example, if we identify that the project is running behind schedule, then the corrective action will be something that can help to expedite the remaining work so that we can make up the schedule variance.

After doing a root cause analysis, if the team realizes that the schedule variance happened because of lack of clear management direction to the team, then the preventive action will include providing clear direction and information to each team member for their corresponding work so that similar variances will not occur in future.

Knowledge Area: Integration Management

Project monitoring is done by the project manager and the team internally to check periodically how the project is doing.

While project evaluation is done by the project sponsor, customer to check how the project is doing. Evaluation is done by someone from outside the team.

Knowledge Area: Schedule Management

If the project is behind schedule, we first need to understand the extent of variance. If the variance is very small and the team will feel this variance can be managed easily without much change, then in that case, we may not do any alteration except keeping a very close watch on further progress.

Project schedule variance means some of the tasks on the critical path are having variances. Some of the critical tasks are running behind. If the variance requires intervention, then the team will identify means to expedite the remaining project work. Priority has to be given on expediting the work on the critical path without unduly neglecting the non-critical tasks.

Some of the common actions may include adding more resources on the critical path tasks appropriately or exploring to do some of the future tasks in parallel which are currently scheduled in sequence. These two methods can help in making up the schedule variance and help in expediting so that the project can be completed as per original timeline.

Knowledge Area: Schedule Management

We know that the critical path duration defines the project completion timelines. Hence if we can monitor the critical path activities more closely and see that they are on time, we can ensure that the project will get completed as per agreed timeline.

More focus has to be given to monitoring the critical tasks and also ensuring that the non-critical tasks are not unduly delayed so that they become critical.

Knowledge Area:Schedule Management

Fast tracking and Crashing are techniques for expediting the project activities. They are applied when there is schedule variance observed. As explained in above question, adding more resources is termed as “Crashing” and doing tasks in parallel is termed as “Fast Tracking”.

Crashing may add more cost to the project, whereas Fast Tracking may add additional risk of rework since tasks will be performed in parallel.

Knowledge Area: Integration Management

The team will be developing the various project deliverables. When some significant deliverable will be ready by the team, the team will seek acceptance of the completed deliverables from stakeholders. Once the team will receive acceptance of major deliverables, typically at the end of phase or at the end of the project, the team will prepare for logically closing either the phase or the project depending upon where we are.

Hence the pre-condition for initiating phase or project closure is successful acceptance of project deliverables by the customer or stakeholders.

Knowledge Area: Integration Management

Closing of phase or project logically is very important. All loose ends of the project or phase must be closed. Some of the important activities that will happen during closing of phase or project will include the following:

  • Analyse and ensure that all the acceptance criteria of the project and product have been met
  • Prepare and consolidate the final deliverable for handing over to the appropriate stakeholder or customer.
  • Handover all documents such as training manuals etc. to the customer
  • Close all financial dealings with suppliers and vendors of the project
  • Formal sign off from customer
  • Prepare a final project report which should detail out the story of the complete project for future reference
  • Consolidate all lessons learnt and ensure that they are shared across the organization
  • Archive all project records
  • Do appraisal of performance of all team members and provide feedback to their respective functional managers and HR
  • Recognize and reward all contributors of the project
  • Release all equipment and resources
  • Celebrate

Knowledge Area: Integration Management

Closing time is an opportunity for introspection for the project team. All lessons learnt are consolidated. It is ensured that the new learning gets institutionalised. They are used in the current project and also across the organization. We build new process assets for the organization. Proper phase closing helps in deciding to move to the next phase. Project closing brings the project to an orderly end by consolidating all assets & learning.

Description

Above questions and answers would have given you a broad feel and insight to many facets of project management interview questions and answers. The above questions and answers have been designed covering the entire domain of project management knowledge, covering initiation, planning, executing, monitoring and closing.

While the above questions are designed for presenting a broad idea, but there is no substitute to being really well prepared with a thorough understanding of the entire project management practices, tools and techniques. A thorough understanding of the subject will truly provide the needed knowledge and confidence for not only taking up an interview well, but also to manage a real project also very well.

The first 5 scenarios relate to project initiation, project planning, project execution, project monitoring and controlling and project closing. 
The questions also exhaustively cover all the various aspects of project such as scope, schedule, cost, quality, resources, communication, risk, procurement, stakeholder and integration management.The 6th Scenario is presented as a real-time mock interview situation with a set of questions covering all aspects of project life cycle.

Wishing you the very best. We are confident that your project management experience along with these resources will surely help you develop a clear way of thinking to ace your next big project management interview.

We, at Knowledgehut, are committed to providing you with easy to understand yet effective resources to help you develop solid understanding on project management.

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