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Project Management Checklists

~ By Howard Vaughan


Among all the tools at our disposal for managing projects, checklists are perhaps the simplest and most productive means of building consistency in work practices. Checklists are useful in almost every field of human endeavour, and in particular where repeatability and systematic action drive performance. Yet they are still much underused in the planning and managing of projects.

Here is a high level twelve-point checklist for use during project planning:

  1. Have the needs and concerns of all key stakeholders been considered and resolved?
  2. Does the project have an overall approved mission statement defining the scope, schedule and resources/budget?
  3. Has the relative flexibility among scope, schedule, resources and budget been determined?
  4. Have all project deliverables been identified and described in detail with unambiguous completion criteria?
  5. Are roles and responsibilities defined and agreed upon for all project team members?
  6. Has an appropriately detailed Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) been created with input from key team members?
  7. Has a credible schedule with identifiable critical path and late schedule been developed from the WBS and optimised within the project constraints?
  8. Have milestones been included in the schedule to track major events, completed phases and/or deliverables and external dependencies?
  9. Have workload commitments been identified for each week of the project and agreed to by team members and their managers?
  10. Have response plans been developed for the most significant threats to project success?
  11. Has a change management process been defined and agreed to by all key stakeholders?
  12. Has the governance structure for the project been established with an agreed sponsorship role and expectations set for review frequency and format?

One of the features of checklists is that they can be designed to extend hierarchically, such that a sub-checklist could be developed to facilitate any or all of the checks above (e.g. a stakeholder analysis checklist or a risk management checklist). The PMI, training firms and PMOs would do well to promote checklists more strongly - project managers like to use checklists; not many want to read through an overweight methodology. And managers like checklists because they improve quality and instil consistency.

Howard Vaughan is an accomplished project management consultant, trainer, coach and speaker. He has created and delivered high impact solutions for dozens of companies seeking excellence in project planning and execution worldwide.

Comments (3)

Topic: Project Management Checklists
4/5 (3)
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30th October 2017 11:46am
Robin Dixon (London) says...
Does anyone use Trello for tracking projects and for those that do, how do you rate it? The app has a great checklist system that can define all elements of projects. The other aspects I like about Trello are sharing updates with external parties, being able to update the team without missing emails and using the iOS/Android App to track projects remotely.
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30th October 2017 4:59pm
Duncan Haughey (London) says...
I use Trello for our Scrum Task Board. It provides a view of the current sprint backlog letting the team see what tasks need to be started, what are in progress and those that are done. It’s a good tool and has many uses, including as as a personal task list.
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29th February 2016 6:58am
Adam Russell (Putney) says...
Love the idea of checklists and there is a lot you can do with them if they are developed well.

Have you read "The Checklist Manifesto" by Atul Gawande? It goes into checklists in great detail and is worth a read.

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