The Project Notebook

The Power of Checklists and Sign Offs


I usually have to visit a copy shop at least 2-3 times a year to fulfill various needs for PMI meetings and events. This past weekend I had a critical business need to have a small number of copies made and spiral bound for a customer meeting. With FedEx Kinko’s being the closest, I dashed off last night to have the copies done. Since I don’t frequently visit, this was like a “first visit” all over again.

Fully expecting to pick up my copies on Sunday, I explained what I needed. In under 5 minutes, Kevin, a customer consultant had a copy made and bound for me to review and approve. I was quite surprised when he informed me I could come back in a half hour and pick them up. Being on the way out to dinner anyway, I returned in under an hour to pick up the finished product.

Packed with my copies, I found two similar checklists which read something like this (I’ve shortened, but maintained the key messages):

– I took your order, repeated your instructions, and offered you enhancements.
– My order was repeated back to me and I am confident my instructions were clearly understood.
– I have reviewed the sample and approve the order.
– I produced the order according to the instructions.
– I quality checked all previous work and finished your order according to your instructions.
– I quality checked the final order using quality standards and the instructions. To the best of my knowledge, this order meets your expectations.

Both lists were cross checked and initialed by Kevin and another employee. My order was very small compared to many (8 spiral bound copies of a 20-25 page document). But the process was followed and the checklist completed. The work was high quality, and my simple document looked impressive. Based on the timestamps, this order was completed by Kevin and another associate in 5-10 minutes.

The important message here is what went through my mind as I left:

– The shop employees are efficient and accurate. They did a great job at setting my expectations.
– They followed the process for even a small order.
– My order looked great and care was taken to make sure my needs and expectations were met.
– This obviously wasn’t a bureaucratic process and the checklist captured the key points — the order was quickly produced and waiting for me on my return trip after dinner.
I can trust they will complete larger future orders with high quality.

There is an important message here for projects large and small. Having checklists make sure the best practice and process is followed. By initialing each box, I’m assured those completing the work felt good enough to put their name on it. They didn’t make me sign or initial the form, but I was more than willing and gave my verbal consent while in the store. But most important, I walked away feeling the project team was able to take on larger challenges while still meeting my needs and expectations.

Do your project sponsors have the same feeling when your projects are completed? Will the next project charter name you as the Project Manager?

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© 2010-2012 Ray W. Frohnhoefer, MBA, PMP, CCP