Punch lists are an important part of the project execution process. Closing the loop on these final tasks helps to ensure that your stakeholders are satisfied with your initiative’s outcome. Completing punch list items is also key to delivering the full value everyone expects from the project.
However, between the volume of activities occurring in most companies and the somewhat fluid nature of the project team structure, PMs may sometimes find their punch lists are a bit unwieldy. When lean staffing and lean budgets are added to the mix, you risk overlooking some of these closeout tasks entirely.
If that sounds familiar, consider some steps you can take to get control of your punch list process and achieve the best possible project results.
One critical action that can help you gain better mastery of your punch lists is to treat every punch list task as part of the project. With the majority of the effort’s activities behind them, team members may be tempted to add punch list items to their normal daily workloads, where they could be bumped down the priority ranking as new projects begin and more urgent tasks fill their schedule. Instead, be sure you continue to view these activities—even if they seem minor—as a component of a defined initiative. This not only helps keep them at the top of the priority list, it also enables you to maintain visibility into which tasks are still outstanding.
To be sure your team doesn’t run into roadblocks so near the finish line, it’s important to know your budget before tackling punch list tasks. You don’t want to be ready to execute an activity, only to discover the line item is already marked as complete—meaning funds may no longer be available—or you’ve reached your budget limit. By reviewing your actual spending against the original budget, you’ll have the insight necessary to either schedule the remaining punch list tasks knowing their invoices will be approved, or you can reallocate funds from an area of the project budget where you still have a surplus remaining.
Just as you would with any other task on the project schedule, PMs should assign individual responsibility for every punch list activity. Without full accountability—and given the numerous tasks most project team members juggle from day to day—it’s too easy for punch list items to fall through the cracks. As you delegate the execution of each remaining activity, be sure to discuss the current workload and be mindful that team members aren’t overcommitting their time.
Though scheduling tasks is core to successful project execution, it can be surprisingly difficult to get team members to schedule punch list activities. Sometimes the group wants to delay scheduling these final items until they have a full accounting of what’s left to accomplish, so they can more effectively sequence the remaining tasks. The problem with that approach is the strong likelihood that a comprehensive list of punch list tasks might not ever be compiled. The longer you wait to get closeout activities into a firm slot on the calendar, the less chance you have of catching and completing everything.
Now that you know who will execute each task and the expected timeframe for completion, you should make it a point to follow up frequently on the progress of punch list items. Though it takes additional time to maintain this level of visibility into the status of your project’s punch list, it’s a step that will enable you to quickly catch potential delays or other problem areas and ensure that all remaining tasks get done on time.