I tried hard to come up with a positive title for this article! With the more positive scenario of “winning” the lottery you would hopefully transition your project properly before riding off in the sunset! However, in the case of your being “out of commission” for a temporary (or permanent) time frame, if limited information is available to your team or to a replacement project manager how successful are they likely to be? Morbid though it might seem, we can draw a parallel to estate planning – without a will that clearly states how one’s property is to be allocated and what one’s desired funeral arrangements are, you are at the mercy of the specific laws of your region.
For those of you that are affiliated with PMI, the code of ethics has a topical clause: “We fulfill the commitments that we undertake – we do what we say we will do.” We need to spend some effort keeping the information on our projects up-to-date so that unplanned transitions can be accommodated with minimal business impact.
This should not be an issue in organizations that have established, consistent methodologies. But in those places that have no such standards, what is the bare minimum that you should strive to maintain?
1. A project charter – while most large projects are likely to have a signed off charter or equivalent document, if there have been drastic changes in the vision or authority granted by this document, it is important to bring it up-to-date.
2. A current stakeholder analysis document – most PMs can figure out who their main customer and team members are, but its the stakeholders they are not keeping an eye on that can cause them the most trouble.
3. The most current approved baselines for scope, schedule, cost & quality – you can only manage what you measure, and if you have no baseline against which to track progress, performance is in the eye of the beholder.
4. An up-to-date project organization structure & contact list – I’m assuming you would not want a replacement PM digging through your e-mail archives to locate the telephone number of a key vendor?
5. Project status reports from the past six reporting periods
6. Updated issue, risk & action logs – these should include a clear description of business impacts, ownership, expected resolution or response dates, and action/response plans
7. Copies of all signed contracts, purchase orders & invoices related to the project
Now you might say that all of these items exist for your project, but how easy is it for someone to locate them? Is there a single master source for these or are there multiple versions? And (more important), are they up-to-date, or a few weeks (or months) stale?
If your executor has no idea where your will is or if it is current, your estate may suffer. The same might be true for your project, missing a current, easy to locate project control book – ashes to ashes, dust to dust.