Six Questions to Set proper context for a project discussion.

1.Why are we discussing this? You’ve been examining the issue in detail for a long time in preparation for the meeting. Everyone else—even the person who originally put the item on the agenda—has moved on to other things while you were doing that work. Right up front, you’ll need to refresh their memories by providing a brief, high-level review of the business situation. Remind everyone why the meeting is being held, and ensure that all are on the same page.

2.Why is it important to address this now? So many matters are important in today’s busy, always-slightly-overwhelmed world. Explain why it is necessary to talk about this right now. Describe the specific threat, opportunity, or other circumstance that is driving the timing of the discussion.

3. How did we get to this point? In addition to the why questions above, it is crucial to remind everyone of the story behind how you got to where you are now. Describe the chain of events: not just the fact pattern, but also the logic and reasoning driving the decisions that were made. Reviewing these strategic choices helps set the stage for the forward-looking strategy you’ll discuss in the meeting.

4. What are the options for moving forward? Once you’ve set the stage properly and presented the main content, it’s decision-making time. As you’ve researched and analyzed this matter, you’ve examined a variety of alternative scenarios for moving forward. Present these here. Clearly lay out the various options that must be considered.

5.What is the cost, benefit, and risk of each option? Put the available options in a framework that makes the trade-offs clear. It is crucial to examine the key facets of each option in business terms.

6.Which option do you recommend, and why? You should be able to explain what you would like to do, and support that choice with a coherent argument. Here’s where you can demonstrate some leadership and bring together your domain expertise and business acumen. Make your recommendation, and be prepared to back it up.

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