Situational questions are the most challenging question type on the PMP exam that test your ability to apply PMBOK concepts in light of your real world experience and best judgement. These questions tend to be wordy and need some practice to be able to identify the real PROBLEM/PROCESS/SCENARIO being tested.
A little practice and a careful strategy to weed out unnecessary information will help you master this question type. Below is my strategy to tackle such questions:
Step 1 – Carefully read the full question and try to focus on the real PROBLEM/PROCESS/SCENARIO being tested. Ignore all the extraneous information and description.
Step 2 – Read all the answer choices and try to eliminate choices that are clearly irrelevant and out of context for the question. Usually, it’s very easy to eliminate 1-2 choices.
Step 3 – Read the remaining choices carefully and decide which one best answers the question. This is where you own experience as a project manager and the ability to apply PMBOK concepts in real scenarios comes handy.
Let’s use our strategy to tackle a situational question:
You are a Project Manager on a new condo development project. This is the first major condo project your company is doing which specializes in townhouse development projects. The project has already gone through several changes and is 6 months delayed from its original advertised move in date. In a recent status update meeting, team lead for door design elements informed you that a major design element (door knobs) was changed as the original door knobs could not be delivered on time due to delays in shipping from China. The team lead mentions that the difference between the knobs is not even noticeable and will not affect cost or schedule in any way. What should you do next?
- Complement the team lead for being proactive and taking initiative in implementing a corrective action.
- Immediately inform the stakeholders, check for any impacts to scope, schedule, and cost, and update project documents accordingly.
- Check if the risk response strategy was correctly implemented and update the risk register.
- Demote the team leader as he undermined your authority and didn’t consult you before approving the change.
The information about the project is just extraneous information; the comment about project already being delayed for 6 months is also extraneous and not useful for answering the real question, just there to confuse you and make your thoughts go on a tangent.
So what is the real question here?
Simply put, a change was implemented without the knowledge of the project manager. What should a project manager do in this case? Stating a question in your own words can help a lot in visualizing the situation and coming up with an answer.
Before even going to the answer choices, let’s think if this situation occurs in a real project at your work, what is the best strategy? Because a change was implemented without the PM’s knowledge, are you thinking we should do an impact analysis and let the stakeholders know immediately? Did you consider the change may have been a risk response to an identified risk trigger?
Read the answer choices and try to eliminate answers that are either irrelevant or doesn’t address the real question. In the above example, choices 1 and 4 are clearly out of context. You can’t award or reprimand a team lead for each change carried out correctly/incorrectly.
Even if you were to award a team member for anything, your HR plan will guide you on when and how. Always remember, you have already made all these decisions in your PM plan.
So, that leaves us with answers 2 & 3 as possible choices.
Let’s move on to Step 3.
Are you thinking answer 2 is the correct choice?
If there wasn’t answer 3, 2 would have been correct. But, as a seasoned PM, didn’t you do a good job with risk management? Your team lead would have mentioned this as a risk, listed a risk response strategy, and will be the risk owner. Another hint that a risk was already identified is the use of the word “major” in “…major design element…”.
As the risk event occurred, the team lead implemented the documented risk response strategy and made sure there weren’t any secondary risks. You can check the effectiveness of the risk response strategy and update the risk register and record any secondary risks.
Are you thinking, we should still let the stakeholders know? You are correct, after implementing the risk response for change to a major design element, it’s always a good idea to let the relevant stakeholders know as detailed in the Communication Plan.
Good luck with your practice!