A Simple Project Checklist for Occasional Project Managers
If managing projects was never in your job description but you’ve got a project to get done, you may be running in circles trying to make sense of what to do first.
We’re here to help.
In this post, we’ll give you a simple project management checklist that you can use to start off your project right.
Let’s take a look!
Why Do You Need a Project Checklist?
Honestly? Because projects don’t have to be as complicated as they may seem.
If you’re not a professional project manager, or if you’re a team lead who has to manage a project for the first time, you may find yourself juggling a lot of responsibilities.
And when there’s too much on your plate, it’s impossible to know where to get started.
Our checklist is going to cover the essentials so you don’t forget a thing, and ensure your project gets completed in time.
A Simple Project Management Checklist
Project Initiation and Planning: Define the Project
The first phase is project initiation. Communication is crucial at this point; you have to understand both the project and the stakeholders’ expectations.
1. Define your project
Get your clients in the same room to define:
- Deliverables and objectives (What results will the project produce?)
- Key performance indicators (Metrics that will determine whether the project was successful and help you track performance)
- Expectations (What problems do the clients expect to resolve with this project?)
- Scope, budget and timeframe
Depending on who your clients are, they may need guidance to properly define their project. Aim to always establish the exact objectives, budget, scope, and timelines.
Avoid vague discussions, and write everything down.
When establishing project objectives, try to use the SMART goal-setting method. Every objective should be:
For example, your client could say that they want to produce an online banking application that can serve up to 10.000 users per day, within three months.
2. Create a Work Breakdown Structure
Clients and top management have all kinds of ideas.
However, it’s up to you as the project manager to establish whether those ideas are even achievable in terms of resources and objectives.
The next item on your project checklist should be to create a work breakdown structure (WBS).
A WBS will help you define all the tasks and activities that need to be completed in order to finish the project.
Your WBS will help you identify all the requirements, and then break them down into tasks. You’ll understand task dependencies – which tasks have to be completed first?
This way, you’ll clearly see all the resources you need to complete different tasks.
Additionally, you’ll also determine the critical path – the task completion sequence that will help you finish the project in the shortest possible time, with the lowest possible costs.
3. Meet with Stakeholders
After creating your WBS, meet with the stakeholders again. Determine whether they still want you to carry out the project.
Often, the WBS uncovers constraint problems.
For example, the project may need a bigger budget than the clients are prepared to allocate. You may need more time. Or the project will simply take a lot more work than the client previously thought.
4. Create Your Project Plan
When all the stakeholders are on board, it’s time to create your project plan.
It should contain:
- The project scope statement
- A project schedule
- Project risk plan
- Change policy
- The project communication plan
Your project plan is like a road map.
It’ll tell you exactly what you need to do, what resources you need to do it, how to handle risks and problems, and how to keep stakeholders informed (without getting a headache).
Project Execution: Getting Things Done
5. Choose a Communication and Project Management Tool
Technically, you could manage projects with just a piece of paper, but it’ll make things a lot harder.
It’s better to get a visual task and project management tool.
It’ll help you increase transparency every step of the way:
- You’ll be able to monitor project performance and progress
- Your team members will know exactly what they need to do
- Other stakeholders will stay in the loop
Depending on the specifics of your project, you may need a project management tool only to communicate with your team and improve your productivity.
However, if you’re working on a longer project, the external stakeholders (e.g. clients, top management) will likely want to be kept in the loop regarding your progress.
You can easily adjust permissions in your task management software and allow them to see how far you’ve come.
6. Create a Schedule for Your Project Team
Once all the stakeholders have signed off on the project plan, it’s time to make a schedule for your team:
1. Define tasks and add them to your task management software
2. Set deadlines
3. Assign tasks to team members
4. Identify task dependencies
5. Set priorities in your PM tool
7. Monitor Your Project Progress and Performance
Step 7 is one of the most important ones in your project checklist. You can’t just add tasks to your PM tool and forget about it.
Instead, you should proactively manage your performance.
Use Gantt charts or dashboard reporting features to streamline reporting.
If you set it up right in a tool like Project Central, you’ll be able to review your progress at a glance.
Check your WBS and your schedule periodically to ensure you are following the plan and the critical path.
8. Manage Issues and Risks
Projects are dynamic, so you’ll likely come across issues and risks.
If you’ve created good change and risk policies and processes in the initiation phase, you’ll know exactly what to do.
If you encounter a problem that doesn’t affect the main three constraints: time, budget, and scope, add it to your backlog.
If the problem affects the principal three, consult your team and your stakeholders to revise the plan.
Following risk management practices is a good way to ensure that risks and issues don’t affect your projects negatively.
They will help you mitigate risks and still get to the finish line in time.
Project Completion: Lessons Learned
9. Inspect Your Results and Deliverables
When you finish your project, the results and deliverables should be as agreed upon in the project plan.
Make sure you compare your results against the established acceptance criteria to see if they fit the specifications.
Prepare the handover and project completion documentation, and schedule the final completion meeting with stakeholders.
10. What Have You Learned?
Finally, project completion is the perfect time to reflect on the lessons you and your team have learned throughout the project.
Your past behavior and PM tool analytics can become a well of valuable insights. You can use the data to understand your obstacles, and improve your performance in the long term.
You can even prepare evaluation surveys for your team and/or other stakeholders. Feedback will help you improve in the long term.
Yes, client satisfaction matters.
But as a project manager, you have to keep performance improvement in your mind, as well. And for that, you’ll need to consider everyone’s perspective.
It’ll help you consistently produce excellent results.