Asking The Right Question Is Half The Answer

I read recently that there is a German saying, "Asking the right question is half the answer." How true that is in most things, but it seems to be especially applicable in project management, estimating, planning and control. I can think of hundreds of "right" questions. Here are a few.

The 90% complete syndrome: The first 90% of the work takes the first 90% of the time. And the second 90% of the effort takes the other 90% of the time.

Some of the right questions up front would have been: What is the probability of the estimate? Have potential growth factors been included? How? What if people, process, products are different from estimates?

Some of the right questions during development would have been: What percent is the project complete based on completed tasks and tasks yet to go? What is the estimate to complete based on where we are now? What is the probability of that estimate? What could make it better? What could make it worse?

When will my Agile project be done and what will it cost: What was the estimated effort to complete all the user stories up front? What percent of the user stories are complete? How much has the backlog grown? What is the estimate to complete? What is the probability? PS: I know Agile programs are supposed to be able to stop at almost any time with working software. But what if what is working is not adequate and I am out of budget? When should I Agile?