Write it Down

Project Documentation Best PracticesWe’re usually pretty certain that we can remember anything. You know how it goes…that time you’re scheduling your next dental visit and you say to the lady at the desk that you don’t need an appointment card. Or when your wife asks you to pick something up on the way home or to do a maintenance activity this weekend. No problem, you got it up here (pointing to that empty space in your head). Do these scenarios sound familiar? Well, they do for me, so that’s enough incentive to write this article…

How many times have you been involved in a project status meeting with your team or with the project customer and things were said, decisions were made, action was planned, and then nothing happened? You follow up with the promising party and they had completely forgotten about the promised action. Or worse yet, they deny ever have made the promise. They’re not lying…they’re just clueless. And even more often what happens is they deliver something similar to what was promised, but it really doesn’t cover the need….it isn’t exactly what was discussed in the meeting.

I can say, all of these scenarios have happened on my teams, with my customers, and even I have been guilty of missing the boat on delivering something I had promised in a meeting but didn’t document and therefore it was not on my to do list. I’ve learned from these missteps to always write these tasks down…and here’s the process I follow during important project meetings to make sure these mistakes and omissions never have to happen again…

#1 – Use a weekly status report to drive the meeting

I always meet with my team in advance of a weekly status call with the customer and use that time with the team members to go over assignments, task statuses, issues, questions, etc. Basically the goal is to get everyone on the team on the same page and to be ready to discuss whatever is project relevant with the customer and know where things stand. That info goes into a revised project status meeting and a revised project schedule and those two things – at a minimum – are delivered to the customer and project team prior to the weekly status call according to whatever schedule we’ve agreed upon. Usually the day before the call or the morning of the call.

#2 – Conduct the call and document the discussion

The next step, logically, is to conduct the call and take good notes. I use the status report as sort of a transcript for the call. We go over each bullet item – and I add more bullets for other discussions that happen. A summary of everything we discuss is on that report noting action items and assignments under each bullet item where appropriate and of course documenting promises, assumptions, and updates as well.

#3 – Revise the status report from the notes and deliver to everyone

I then revise the status report with notes – often noting updates, notes, etc. in blue or red and I then send this to everyone involved in the call. I give them a day to review the revised status report/notes and get back to me with any changes or updates. The goal is to make sure I’ve documented it correctly and that everyone sees these updates and takes ownership of their assignments and promises. And if any revisions were necessary, then a new status report with notes goes back out to the entire team – and that revised status report becomes the starting point for next week’s report and meeting agenda.


This all may sound very logical, but it’s amazing how many project managers don’t follow up with notes like this after a meeting and it’s also amazing how long it took me to get into a routine of doing this. It doesn’t take much time, but it can definitely mean the difference between completing a task you’ve agreed to and completely neglecting it. It’s no fun having the project customer ask you about it on the next status call and have it be a task that you completely forgot about! Customer confidence can really start to take a hit in those instances…avoid them at all cost.

Brad Egeland
Brad Egeland

Noteworthy accomplishments:
*20 year provider of successful technical project management leadership for clients across nearly every industry imaginable
*Author of more than 4,000 expert professional project management and business strategy articles, eBooks and videos over the past decade
*Articles/professional content receives over 40,000 page views monthly
*Named #1 in the 100 Most Inspiring People in Project Management
*Named a Top 10 Project Management Influencer to Follow in 2016
*The most read author of expert project management content on Project Times/BA Times for 2015
*Named most prolific provider of project management content over the past 5 years
*Noted for successful project management and financial oversight for $50 million Dept. of Education financial contract/program
*Chosen by the Dept of Defense as a subject matter expert (SME) to help select IWMS software provider for the largest IWMS implementation ever awarded

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