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The Critical 3rd Question: ‘Who?’

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PM: Project Mgmt

The Critical 3rd Question: ‘Who?’

When it comes to successfully accomplishing something…

…anything from constructing a long term strategy to completing a production project, from hiring a new person to securing a key sale we have three major questions to ask. And the last one doesn’t get as much attention as it should!

What and why?

The first two questions are typically ‘what’ and ‘why’. What needs to get done and why is it important? This establishes the need for the work and the specifics of the task.

The Critical Third Question…

If we want the very best chance of success our third question needs to be ‘who?’ Who is going to do the work? Who’s advising us? Who’s managing the project?

Getting the right person on an advisory panel, team, or project can save countless hours, days or even years of effort and get better results. It can secure delivery of short-term projects or ensure long-term success and profitability.

Here’s a quick business example that’s quite close to home…

Verne, CEO at Gazelles, tells of a project to implement a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system . He contacted the I.T. team and they gave him a list of over twenty different software options. These were discussed at the next monthly management meeting. As they were about to make a shortlist and begin evaluating them, he remembered the who question.

He contacted two people he knew, that understood the Gazelles business and were extensive users of such systems and asked their opinion. Both recommended the same system…which was subsequently implemented. This saved a likely months-long project and probably got them a better result than they would have done themselves.


““Who?” at every level…”

Often a large amount of time and effort can be spent in the acquisition of a customer or the design of a project only for production or execution to be handed over to a team incapable of getting the work done.

“Who?” needs to be considered at every level in the company and every stage of a project:

– Who is on the team that decides the strategy

– Who is on the team that produces the design

– Who is on the team that creates the service or builds the product

– Who is on the team that tests and verifies that a product or service does what it should

…and many more

Why is ‘who’ often overlooked?

People decisions always tend to be tougher than others but they are probably where a good manager can earn the majority of her salary!

– Adding someone to a team can mean having to move someone elsewhere

– Deciding whether someone is the right fit for a task or team requires careful thought

– Deciding the composition of a team can mean getting the right blend of personality traits

– If someone is the right ‘personality-fit’ they may require some specific technical training


These decisions – and more like them – are tough and require time. But the benefits are huge.


Originally from the UK, Ian has lived and worked in Southeast Asia for nineteen years. The last eight of those have been spent coaching and mentoring over sixty executives and business owners. Ian's specialist area is helping executives in mid-market growth firms improve their strategy and revenues, retain their key team members, improve execution and build cash.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Shan

    June 11, 2018 at 3:35 am

    This is really good!

    Too many times people don’t think about these things.

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