Checklists and Change Programs

Jerry Manas’s post at PM Think (here) is a useful reminder to avoid a common error made when PMOs first implement processes and controls — over-engineering.   I can only say “Amen” to what Jerry notes:

We create forms, templates, and stage gates, in an attempt to gain control. But in doing so, we also create such barriers to implementation that it becomes like the Twelve Trials of Hercules just getting something implemented. P lus we lose flexibility (and I might add, credibility) as well. 

We’ve succumbed to that syndrome ourselves and Jerry’s prescription is a fine cure.  Our PMO finds checklists especially effective in two situations:

  • Initial design, communication, and usage of a new or changed process.  Checklists reinforce the basics and ease process adoption.  Only once the change program is past the awareness and understanding phases — in other words, early adopters are actually using the process — does developing sophisticated templates or tools make sense. 
  • Handling process handoffs.  Process and value chains are generally weakest where there are handoffs (e.g., between sales and delivery).  These handoffs are particularly severe when the personnel who accepted the leading process or phase deliverables aren’t directly responsible for the successor phase.  In this example, delivery management may have to accept/approve a statement of work, but the project manager hasn’t been selected.  Rather than force the PM to recapitulate the phase or process closing process, we use a checklist so the project manager can validate the quality of the handoff him/herself.
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