There's one thing that any good and responsible project manager knows for certain: you need a battle plan before going out into the field. It's not just any other plan, either. You need a checklist. Not just any other checklist as well. You need a good project management checklist, especially focused on your needs, goals, and purposes. With a well-thought out checklist, you're guaranteed a successful project and a more than desirable outcome.
If you've been a project manager before, you know that there's more than one way to go about completing a project. The same goes for a project management checklist. What we've done, however, is to take those good bits here and there and put them together in one place for you. Here, we have a project management checklist for project managers.
A project management checklist helps you find your starting point and prioritize what you need to get done amongst all of the other to-dos on your plate. You don't have to go into too much detail. Your checklist can cover the most basic of steps so you have an idea of how to go about the project from conception to completion. You'll also have timelines and deadlines clearly mapped out so you have a clear view of what's expected at which point in the project development stage.
You will also need a project management checklist to be able to better lead your team. They'll be able to get a more comprehensive picture of the project – your goals, the client's expectations, and the deadlines that you have to meet. Keep in mind that project completion is a collective and collaborative effort and you need a project management checklist to help you ensure that it stays that way. What follows is a project management checklist for project managers.
Before you get started on anything, be sure to discuss the following with your clients. Take meeting notes and minutes to make sure nothing is missed or forgotten:
● Project objectives – What do your clients hope to achieve with the project?
● Your deliverables – What do they expect once the project is completed?
● KPIs – Which metrics will you use to determine the project’s success or failure as well as track performance?
● Scope, budget, and timeframe
Keep in mind that some clients might help with these items because you may come across some who only have a faint idea of what they want and what they expect the results of the project to be. Part of your project management tasks is being able to help your client determine what they want out of the project. Also, when discussing such details, be specific and concise. You can’t afford to take up too much of your time going back and forth with your client.
2. Create your work breakdown structure (WBS)
Coming up with a WBS as part of a project manager's tasks can be simply defined as the project and tasks management part of project management. This is where you define the requirements for the project, break them down into tasks, and then pinpoint the person in your team to assign it to. This is where you'll also need to outline task dependencies so you and your team can figure out which should go first.
Finally, you can determine the project timeline, the amount of time spent on each task, and subtask. Of course, you can't dictate or control the time it takes to complete a task but you can at least set somewhat of a limit so your team knows that they always have to be efficient. Be sure you include this in your agile project management checklist to make sure everyone is well aware and on board.
Once you have your work breakdown structure all mapped out and ready to be applied, the next item on your project management checklist should be to meet with your clients one more time. This is so you can run your work breakdown structure through them. The good thing with having a well-thought out work breakdown is that it gives you a clear picture of the project in its entirety along with some of the challenges and constraints that you might run into along the way.
These should be presented to your client along with other changes like an increase in the budget, more than the client has initially allocated or the project may take more time for you to complete than first thought. This is where they have time to decide if they want to push through and entrust the project to you and your team. Part of the project manager’s tasks is to present these to the client, in the spirit of transparency, and let them make the final decision.
The project is pushing through – Wooohooo!!! Now it’s time for the actual work to begin and the actual work begins with THE PLAN. The Project Plan, that is. It’s meant to be like a roadmap for you and your team to refer to. The project plan is an umbrella that covers the following items:
● Project schedule
● Other necessary and available resources
You can use your goals for the projects and the expectations of your clients in making decisions about the items mentioned here. Another important part of the project plan is the schedule which shows the specific deadlines for each phase of the project so everyone in your team is in sync. Make sure that everyone is aware that they are working towards a particular date of completion.
Thanks to technological innovations, there are a wealth of tools that you can use alongside your project management checklist to make sure you’re able to oversee the work that gets done and check for quality, timeliness, and the overall efficiency of your team. These tools, software, and apps – for project management, communications, file storage, timekeeping, and more - can be highly useful in making sure nothing is being missed and falling by the wayside.
Choose a communication tool that allows for top quality video conferencing, audio calling, and even instant messaging between colleagues, wherever they may be. This ensures that no time is wasted in waiting for a reply and that a certain amount of work is done at all times. A robust CRM will also go a long way as well as Kanban boards and Gantt charts in so far as adding to your agile project management checklist along with automated workflows, templates, and reports. Prioritize tools and apps that you can use real-time and on every gadget that you have on hand.
Every good project manager knows that to achieve success, you have to plan for failure. This doesn’t mean you’re actually planning on failing, mind you. Planning for failure means anticipating issues and stumbling blocks that can cause big trouble for you down the line and planning your workaround to combat them. This covers every area of a project manager’s tasks: timelines, deadlines, budget, and staffing, among others.
For example, you want to be able to properly pack workdays for optimum productivity so you need to take into account your team’s needs in terms of personal days, sick leaves, and other unplanned absences. Get your team to plot everything in their work calendars and then make those calendars shareable with the whole team. This way, someone else will be able to fill in for a teammate who will be unavailable, ensuring that the flow of work is uninterrupted.
7. Review the output
As a project manager, your primary goal is making sure that the work is at par with your team’s standard of quality, your client’s expectations, and your goals. Create a reporting hierarchy for all work being completed so you’ll always be waiting at the end of the line to either approve said work or send it back for revisions. You will act as the final stop and compiling everything before the actual delivery to your client is part of your project manager’s tasks.
Make sure that every deliverable ticks all the boxes in your client’s requirements and qualifications as detailed and agreed upon in your project plan. Everything should fit your client’s specifications and, if not, there should be enough time for you and your team for a redo or a do-over before the final submission. Ensure that all of the project segments are complete before putting everything together prior to scheduling an official handover with your client.
Being a project manager, or a manager, full stop, is demanding and high-pressure. Thankfully, there are a lot of tools that you can use to make the job, not easier but, more manageable. After a project is complete, meet with your team and brainstorm on the lessons learned, what they would do differently if they could, and get their buy-in to work with you again on another project as part of a new team, especially if you liked their performance.
It’s also a good thing to retreat to a quiet space all to yourself so you can review on your own. Ask yourself what you learned while working on the project, what you would do differently next time, and which tools and people you will be utilizing on your next challenge. Keep this checklist, along with your other collected data, always within your reach. If you’ve followed everything here and made good use of the suggested tools, it’s safe to bet that it won’t be too long until you’re heading a new project again.