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Creating or Recycling

~ By Kenneth Darter

Pile of ring binders in green and black

Every project involves the creation of documents, materials, and deliverables. Oftentimes, the project team can leverage or borrow creations from previous projects and use them for the current project. This "recycling" can help save time and ensure high-quality project outputs are produced. There's an assumption at play here, though. You must assume items created for other projects have already been through a quality assurance programme.

Other times, it's necessary or appropriate to create a new deliverable from the ground up. Sure, this may take more time than recycling. But it will fit exactly the project's requirements.

Depending on the project, you can sometimes recycle, but sometimes need to create new deliverables. Getting it right affects the quality of project outputs. How, then, do you know if you should create something new or recycle pieces of previous projects?

Evaluation of Library

The first step is to evaluate the organisation's internal library. This will help you know two things:

  1. What can be recycled
  2. What gaps might exist in the knowledge base of the organisation

If an organisation has executed past projects, there should be a wealth of knowledge available, from report templates to documented project management processes, to system development lifecycle methodologies. Whatever documents lurk in the knowledge base, ensure you, as the project manager, understand the documents in the internal library. Also ensure the documents are easily available and accessible for the project team that might need them.

If the organisation has a lot of templates but very little process documentation, then concentrate on filling that gap. In other words, ensure new documents are added to the library.

Review Requirements

You might have a great document explaining how the project schedule is to be maintained and updated. However, if it doesn't include tracking work hours of individuals and the contract requirements have detailed specifications about how the project manager will track the time of each person working on the project, then the project schedule document is not very useful to the project at all.

While it can be helpful to reuse and recycle material on a project, the requirements of the current project should take centre stage. It might turn out to be easier to create something new than trying to fit a square peg (or process) into a round hole (or requirement).

Keep the End in Mind

Whenever you're deciding how to approach deliverables or project work, you must keep the end in mind. First, consider what will best serve the project and completing the project according to the project requirements. If the project needs a brand new process to handle the rigorous requirements of the contract, then work on it. But if the project will be in trouble because the new process hasn't been tested or proven, then it's time to recycle and make use of a process that already works and works well, if it's available.


While planning for the project, all of this needs to be taken into account. A well-maintained organisational library, constant attentiveness to document-fit, and laser-focus on specific project document requirements to avoid a scramble when it comes time for the project to start.

How do you decide whether to recycle or start from scratch with project documents? Let me know in the comments!


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PROJECT SMART is the project management resource that helps managers at all levels improve their performance. We provide an important knowledge base for those involved in managing projects of all kinds. With weekly exclusive updates, we keep you in touch with the latest project management thinking.

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