Project Practitioners > Project Chronicles

Project Chronicles

By Ann Drinkwater

Documenting the good and bad within your project, with your stakeholders and teams is very beneficial. Through the process you will gain a strong historical account of events which can be used as a personal, team and ultimately organizational learning and management tool. The act of documenting creates introspection and perspective. It doesn't matter your position with your company; varying perspectives and insight is critical to enterprise and personal improvement. It also doesn't matter if you have a background in writing. It is the process of identifying and articulating your thoughts and observations that matters. Being a highly analytical and introspective thinker (and lover of words!), I could write a book on the value of writing. However, I do understand that not everyone has such a fondness and ease for communicating their thoughts. Some people prefer the spoken word, but in my opinion, writing helps first crystallize thoughts and allows one to better process a situation. The bottom line is, don’t get hung up on your style of writing or your perceived ability or inability to write. Just starting writing. There are many techniques and situations in which you would want to document. For the sake of project management, I will keep it simple and explain a technique I use to document my projects, outside of using metrics and other objective measures. I find I use my documentation for many purposes outside of a specific project – performance reviews, strategic planning, budgeting, and personal development to name a few.

  1. Create an Outline: Determine how you want to structure your documentation will help you focus your thoughts. It will also help you identify priorities to include and will help you exclude extraneous information.
  2. Structure as Milestones/Events: When creating documentation for your professional diary of sorts, identify headlines in terms of milestones and key events. This will help you trace the specifics surrounding your documentation to the success or failure of a milestone. It will also allow you to see the potential downstream/other milestone risks and impacts.
  3. Keep it Objective: You may want to create two sets of documentation. The first can serve a personal outlet for frustrations and annoyances – the things that are subjective and up for interpretation. Documenting these items can be a healthy release, but I would certainly keep this document under tight wrap. I would highly recommend password-protecting the personal version and keeping on your personal computer and something you journal in the evenings. The second document would be the objectively written version with facts and specifics regarding the milestone/event or key activity leading up to the milestone.
  4. Who Did What, When and How: Deciding what to document may be difficult. In general if you focus on the who, what, when, where, how and sometimes why, you will be covered. 
  5. Use as Input to Lessons Learned: The takeaways from your documented thoughts should be just that – something you take away and utilize in other manners.

Think of writing as a tool and a resource. The possibilities are limitless on what to document and the value and use of documentation. Just be sure that you focus your documentation on items that have some impact on your current project, future projects, organization or people. With the tremendous benefits also comes the need to keep things lean, making sure your documentation adds value.

~ Ann E. Drinkwater



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