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To Have and To Hold

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In one of my previous posts, I suggested ways to maintain documentation. And as you know, documentation is very important -- it's the essence of knowledge transfer. The beauty of documentation is that it allows us to avoid the pains of reinventing a series of events that may only reside in a person's mind as a singular experience. It can also lead us to extract some aspect that may move our project from uncertainty and unknowns to more useful information. 
So, once we have taken the precautions I mentioned in my previous post for generating clear and valid documentation, the question becomes: What project documentation should we always have and hold on to? I would suggest, at a minimum, the following:


The charter. It is the closest disclosure to everything the project should touch on. It includes a high-level look at the project: resource list, budget, timeline, assumptions, constraints, risks, other areas of impact and dependencies, a brief description and an immediate focus. 


Budget background and expenditures. This information typically details the budget spending and directs you to possible future support, if any can be used again.

Sources. These include contacts and stakeholders; where information is stored; direct lines of contact; contacts who would be next in the succession; who and where to reach out to in case of additional needs; and where information stemmed from, and how it should be categorized and even prioritized.


A status report of risks and issues in their most recent form. These items show the progress that has or has not been made and is especially helpful in communicating to a new project manager (or yourself, if returning to a project) where to pick up. This status report can even help determine the project's resource needs.

Scope. This tells you what should have been the focus of the project. It also helps determine whether there needed to be an extension to this scope or if something different should be embarked upon, such as a total new project or maybe a revamping of the current scope. 


Are there any types of documentation you find significant to have during a project and to hold on to after a project closes?

Generate Action in Project Status Reports

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To keep project activities moving, I've been testing a strategy of having action generate action through status reporting. Here's what I've noticed that works:

As it stands, the current status of a project or task either gives a call to action, which creates further productive activity, or it leaves things as they are.

For example, a task status might say, "Completed the requirements document." While it's a valid update on the task, it only tells us something that is already in the past. Rewording your updates to generate a vision of current action is more helpful.

Consider if the status update said, "Reviewing the completed requirements document with the business owner." By including the present tense, the status presents the same information, but it adds an action-oriented, current, activity-based standing.

As a result of using present tense, I've noticed that the action of simply reporting on status has generated further action. It actually put me directly into the doing part of action, rather than talking about the action.

Let's say I receive a status update that says, "Kim is getting the screenshots of the system alert message," or, "John is reviewing the requirements document with the business owner." From this, I would know to follow up with Kim on whether she got the screenshot and set a reminder to connect with John and find out how the review went.

Review one of the status updates you've recently done yourself, or one that you received. Did it use the present or past tense? If the latter, what better results do you see possible by using the present tense?

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