I have written about this before, but it seems worth dedicating another blog to reporting and other project documentation that Project Managers face on a regular basis.
While reviewing a lot of project plans, project charters, reports and other types of documents, I see the same mistake over and over again. PMs create documents in a prescribed, formal way just to get them done. And why not? Spending hours compiling multiple pages of information – what could be worse? I’ll tell you what – reading these documents if they are done badly!
So I would like to focus on three pieces of advice that will help make your documentation an effective management tool and, as a result, make the process of compiling and reporting a more meaningful and important part of your job.
- Before creating any document, consider who will use this document and how. Don’t make assumptions – contact end users and ask how they will use these reports. Of course, think about how you will use the document too. If you clearly identify and address these goals, your documents will be truly useful and you won’t feel as if you created them just to exist.
- Don’t include peripheral or useless information. Avoid any, “Just in case I might need it in the future,” blocks of information. If it doesn’t relate to a conclusion or action item, skip it. Less is more in documents. Only include what is relevant and needed.
- Use templates sparingly. Humans create templates, not Project Management gods who can predict all projects and all situations. So the next time you start blindly filling in every section of a template, stop and think, “Do I need to include this?” If not, skip that section. And if you need a new section to include something else, create it. Templates are just basic advice on what information might be included in a document.
While reading this blog post you might be thinking, “Man, this is not rocket science!” If so, good. These points are just common sense. The problem is how uncommon common sense is. It takes discipline and practice to document thoroughly and well, without providing unnecessary information. Just keep the end goal in mind with any single activity, and your work will be more meaningful and enjoyable.