Beyond the Checklist, Know What They Can and Can’t Do

Checklists are valuable tools for project management professionals—they help to keep teams on track, to ensure tasks don’t fall off the radar, to maintain efficient communication channels, and to keep dollars flowing to the right places. But checklists can’t do everything, and PMP®s should be mindful of where weaknesses may be lurking.

Checklists are quickly out of date. It may sound humorous, but Project Teams would do well to create one checklist that specifically deals with keeping all other checklists up to date. An outdated checklist that misses newly added tasks or recently implemented processes is setting your team up for problems down the road. Don’t wait for the next project to launch—it’s better to update checklists as soon as a relevant change is announced.

Checklists are rarely complete. It’s nearly impossible for a master checklist to include everything for every project. Are all stakeholder groups covered? Will there be any out-of-the-ordinary contracts that must be addressed? Each checklist should be evaluated at the outset to ensure it includes everything your particular project will involve.

Reference your checklists at the right time. Many checklists are designed to help close out a particular phase of a project, but it’s a good idea to review the checklist long before the final task is scheduled to be completed. This not only helps gauge the resources necessary to close out the checklist, it also gives your team an opportunity to proactively spot and address any potential issues.

Checklists don’t replace communication. No matter who’s using your checklists—Project Team members, external partners, supporting internal groups, etc.—it’s crucial to remember that most of these people aren’t project management specialists. Checklists often give only top-level information, so your team must make a concerted effort to communicate all additional details and be available to answer any questions.

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