Topic 12.11: Defending your findings

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Although a forensic project review is usually presented as a written report, you should also be prepared to defend your findings to key stakeholders.

These stakeholders might include the project sponsor, your team, a Board of Directors, or even (in the case of high-profile public projects) the community at large.

A defence is an executive level interrogation of your review conclusions and its recommendations – it is not an oral presentation of your findings (such as a PowerPoint).

Therefore, beyond a deep understanding of the project you have reviewed and the major issues encountered, you will also need to be familiar with larger issues, such as the various project management frameworks, theories and best practices that are currently out there.

Here are some tips and tricks:

To prepare for a defence, you should critically re-read your report, putting yourself in the audience’s shoes. 

Try and anticipate their questions and rehearse the answers you might give. 

You could even role-play this with others to sharpen your skills.

In as much as your defence is evaluated in terms of content and clarity, your presentation style will often make or break others’ impressions of you and your work. 

For that reason, don’t speak too fast and don’t read from notes. 

Be prepared to clarify or elaborate on your assumptions, theoretical positions, methods, and conclusions. 

And always try and use examples where possible to illustrate your key talking points.

Listen carefully, too, to what is being asked, and don’t rush your answers. 

It is perfectly acceptable to think for a couple of seconds, or ask if you are on the right track.

If you are not clear about the question, you are entitled to ask for clarification.

Try to be concise and to the point, but at the same time demonstrate that you have a good grasp of the complex issues involved. 

In other words, do not give superficial answers, but at the same time, do not try and present an entire PhD-level theory of project management in each response.

Importantly, you should put up a good defence without being defensive

A good defence means that you can provide strong logical arguments and empirically support or defend your position or recommendations. 

However, don’t become hostile if your audience is critical of your work.

If they are able to point out some real flaws or weaknesses in your review, accept their criticisms with humility, and indicate how you might learn from this for the future.

Ultimately, your ability to defend your review findings will be far more persuasive than the findings themselves.

If called upon, you must be ready for the challenge!