Project Management is a complex professional discipline. So, we’d all like to see Project Management simplified as much as possible – but not more so.
Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.Albert Einstein
Two of the most powerful ways to do this are with checklists and templates. Both have the ability to not just simplify project management, but also to make your practice ore:
So, in this article, we’ll look at templates and checklists as two tools to simplify Project Management and make your job easier and more productive, and allow you to deliver better results
In some ways, this is two articles in one. We’ll follow the same basic structure for each of templates and checklists:
Templates are a familiar approach to simplifying Project Management. I suspect there is hardly a Project Manager who hasn’t either used someone else’s template or created their own at some point. Most of us have done both.
As project managers, we need to record a lot of information – about:
Every time we do this, we need to be sure that we:
So, we use templates to help us to do this quickly and consistently; avoiding the unnecessary work of reinventing a format each time.
A template is nothing more nor less than a container for information. It divides the content up into chunks and lays them out in a consistent manner.
Project Management templates are documents that simplify Project Management day-to-day by allowing you to capture all the information you need for a task, in a format that you or someone else has already approved.
Therefore, your life is easier because you can be confident that your document contains:
So, you’ve simplified your Project Management by taking away every task but focusing on the information itself: the important part.
We’ll split our discussion into three sections:
The steps I’d recommend are:
Most project managers create their project templates using Word or Excel, or their equivalents:
|Text-based templates||Number-based Templates|
|Multi-platform||Adobe PDF format|
However, there is dedicated software for creating templates and forms. None of these links are affiliated:
Please note that I am not a software reviewer and you should do your own investigation of the options available and their respective strengths and weaknesses.
You know what I have found? Two things:
Let’s take these one at a time…
Oh dear. A project monkey has a simple attitude:
Monkey see: Monkey do
A Project Manager, on the other hand, will decide which templates to use, based on three considerations:
Often, you won’t need to use all the templates you could use… And neither should you.
The Project Templates aren’t Quite Right
But, those templates you do use, may not be exactly right for your circumstances. In this case, your job is to weigh the relative csts and benefits of:
This is about comparing time and consistency against precision. In general, I would recommend that you only modify a PMO or Enterprise template:
Our core courses come with different numbers of templates, depending on how comprehensive the course is. But none comes with the full set, because it is large.
For anyone who wants their Project Management simplified by a comprehensive set of over 50 templates, do take a look at our Project Management Template Kit.
You can see a full list of the templates in this kit, here.
Before we start, we’ve done a short video that you may find helpful…
The world is getting more complex, confused, and changeable. So, we need a strategy to cope with this. Checklists provide that strategy.
So, if you want the complexity of Project Management simplified, use checklists. They will help you to avoid:
Indeed, in his book, The Checklist Manifesto, Atul Gawande cites many contexts (including his own, surgery) where checklists save lives, like:
In The Checklist Manifesto, Gawande refers to two types of errors that we make:
Gawande asserts that experts use checklists t counter the second of these errors. I’d argue that, with the right checklist, intelligent non-experts can often get acceptable and even excellent results.
A Project Checklist is a guide to the essential steps that take you through a complex process. These steps are in sequence and miss nothing important out.
After all, we use Work Breakdown Structures (WBS) as a standard part of our planning process. You can think of a WBS as a checklist of all the:
As with Project Management templates, we’ll split our discussion into three sections:
Here is the process I follow
As with templates, most project managers will use a text or spreadsheet document to set out their checklist. I shan’t repeat the table I gave above.
But there are some fantastic dedicated process documentation software tools. As before, I am not a software reviewer and you should do your own investigation of the options available and their respective strengths and weaknesses. And also, none of these links is affiliated.
There are two ways to use a checklist:
How much simpler could it be?
Simply print-off your checklist, or display it on your device. Ten do the first thing on the list. When you’ve completed it properly, tick it off and do the next thing.
A well-constructed checklist can allow a low-experience project manager to tackle a project with confidence.
Will they encounter things they are ill-prepared for? Probably. So, a checklist isn’t the whole solution, but it allows you to learn and, supplemented by other sources of learning like trial and error, mentoring, training, etc, it allows rapid progress and high rates of success.
Do-Confirm checklists are a part of Project Governance. In an earlier article, we answered the question ‘What has Project Governance Ever Done for Us?‘ in some detail. Here’s a short video…
In particular, confirming proper completion of critical activities is a part of both:
For anyone who wants their Project Management simplified by a comprehensive set of over 65 Checklists, do take a look at our Project Management Checklists.
You can see a full list of the checklists in this kit, here.
You can get both our Templates Kit and all of our Checklists and get your Project Management simplified to the greatest extent, with our Project Management Productivity Bundle. And you’ll get a great discount!
We’d love to hear your experiences, ideas, and questions. Please leave them in the comments below.
Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 13 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.
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