Design Thinking Toolkit, Activity 27 – The Pre-Project Survey

Are you just getting started on a project and hoping to gather some high-level project details? Then this pre-project survey is just the activity for you.

Primary Goal To gather high-level, crucial project information
When to Use At the start of a project
Time Required 30-45 minutes
Number of Participants 1-10+
Who Should Participate? Project Stakeholders
Supplies Online form (Google Form, Survey Monkey, etc)

You’ve just been handed a new project and the statement of work might hold some high-level tidbits. However, you need to know a few more crucial details before you can begin planning a project kickoff or next steps. Consider using the pre-project survey. That’s a list of questions that uncovers important information about the underlying what, why, and how of the project. If you do, you’ll be on the right track.

Best yet, you can do this activity remotely and privately through a survey link or in person to get teammates aligned from the get-go. For this post, we’ll just tackle the remote, survey-only format.

Pre-Project Survey Setup + Execution

The format of this activity is very simple. First, create a digital form. We typically use Google Forms, but you could also use Survey Monkey, Jotforms, etc. Next, you’ll share this with all critical team members and stakeholders of the project. Because you’ll email this form, you can send it to as few or as many project stakeholders as necessary. This also gives you access to stakeholders with limited schedules who might be unable to attend an in-person or Zoom meeting. It allows them to complete the survey in their own time.

For each question, allow participants to answer using the “long answer text” box. You don’t want to limit or bias their answers by providing multiple-choice or short-answer inputs.

Pre-Project Survey Questions to Include

  1. You’re in an elevator and asked to describe this project. Summarize it in one sentence.
  2. What are 3-5 of {Project Name’s} primary business goals for this project?
  3. How can {you/your team/your company} help {Project Name} achieve its goals?
  4. Does {Project Name} have any partners we should be aware of? (For example, organizations, companies, products, and/or teams that support the work or project.)
  5. If applicable, who are {Project Name’s} competitors? Similarly, are there any other products or systems we should benchmark or review for inspiration?
  6. What are the biggest challenges we face that could prevent us from achieving our goals?
  7. Are there any major project milestones, special events, or deadlines we should be aware of?
  8. What does success look like? List 3-5 ways we’ll know we’ve succeeded by the end of this engagement.

Once you’ve received the survey results, compare and contrast the various answers. You’ll want to detect patterns and divergences in the answers. So, ask yourself, “Who was in perfect alignment about the project purpose?” and, “Whose response wildly differed from another’s?” These are the areas you’ll want to tease out or validate with the stakeholder team.

Once the analysis is complete, I’ll typically kick off the project by reviewing the answers with the stakeholder team. That way, we can seek alignment on next steps.

Let us know in the comments below if you employ pre-project surveys for your work!

Atomic’s Design Thinking Toolkit


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