I am a big believer in asking simple questions. Below are questions I often ask an engineer to understand project risk and aid in project management.

  1. What are the priorities in the project?
    • Cost?
    • Schedule?
    • Performance?
  2. Where are the risks in this project?
  3. Ask the engineer to drill down and explain different portions of the design.
    • Is it specified well?
    • Explain how the customer will use it.
  4. Where are details missing or where don’t you understand the customer’s point of view?
  5. Review the BOM for cost & supplier risks.
    • Which components are only available from a single supplier (single source)      ?
    • What is the expected life of single supplier components compared to the expected product life?
    • Which components are leading edge and provide a competitive edge and risk?
      • How big is the risk?
  6. Do you have slack at the end of the schedule?
  7. When you get new a feature request, do you stop and consider the impact on the budget and schedule?
  8. Are there any milestones longer than 1 or 2 weeks?
  9. Do you have complete specifications?
  10. What have you learned since we made the plan or schedule?
    • These may represent new risks or reduced risks

When dealing with real experts the problem may be complex but the answer should be simple. So even if you don’t have an electrical or even a project development background, you should be able to understand the answers.