In many ways, this topic is at the root of virtually all project management fundamentals. Whether it is regarding the various Plans involved in a successful project (written in advance, reviewed, endorsed, executed, monitored, etc.) or simply the voluminous recordkeeping required and highly advised in every step of the project, written documentation creates a transparent trail of decision making dating back to the original scope and every twist and turn along the way. But what about all of those grey areas that don’t seem to require such a level of documentation…at the time? The fact of the matter is that these grey areas are what can shape a project from one direction to another and can jeopardize the final outcome and leave the transparent nature of the project management in question.
It is usually fairly intuitive as to which decisions require higher approvals and written documentation. It is often only much after the fact that we realize the other topics and decisions where we were too lazy, too trusting, or just unlucky that we wish we had to do over again. If not to do over again, we wish we had better documentation to support our outcome. Be it poor, we at least have a defensible trail to limit liability.
Still further, we will find that there was never one momentous event or decision which took us off track, and therefore nothing specific to create greater documentation of. It is within these innocuous daily moves when the PM, rather than taping a reality show of the project for posterity, must reflect on the Project Vision and Mission.
A specific decision may not warrant an act of congress, or even a memo to file. But each and every project decision should be consciously vetted through the Project Mission Statement. At the end of the day, if you are left holding the bag without a paper trail of approved decisions, can you stand tall that each of your decisions were made in clear support of the Project Vision? These decisions don’t get documented because they do seem so small. Your mandatory litmus test must be that core vision statement at a minimum. Do this on a regular basis and you will be pleased by how much it helps guide not only yourself but the many directions on your team. Lose track of this foundation and you will be surprised by how far off track you can get before you realize it.