I’ll never forget a conversation I had with one of my fellow project managers one day when we were discussing an important project. It was a good sized project with a broad scope, and several tasks and deliverables that some might consider fuzzy because it involved changing business practices for a company over a couple years.
I had shared with him the steps I took to make sure my view of a completed deliverable was the same as the client PM. He was aghast that I had a formal deliverable sign off sheet that the client PM signed once each task was completed.
It wasn’t a normal practice of the PM’s in the organization I was working for. And he said it implied I didn’t trust the client. But it’s actually quite the contrary.
Having a formal process in place helps you and the client have clarity around exactly what’s being done. So your “done” is the same as his. Plus the communication and discussion required to get from project initiation to completion around each deliverable solidifies and sustains that trust as the project proceeds.
So let’s start at the beginning.
Setting the Stage
Once the project is approved, the PM and key stakeholders (or in my case, the client PM) meet to review the project scope and go over the project deliverables and schedule to define what will work to meet the client’s expectations. We also discuss the acceptable completion criteria for each deliverable. Project reviews and regular communication sessions are scheduled to accommodate the project schedule.
At this point in the project is where I introduce the formal sign off process by explaining that the intention is to ensure their expectations are met prior to moving to the next step of the project. That makes people happy knowing you care so much about them being successful and it provides a historical reference about the process of your project.
During the Project
As the project proceeds, tasks, deliverables and their related completion criteria, and status are discussed at regular project review meetings. As with any project, things are going to shift so you want to make sure that any completion criteria is adjusted as needed.
At each deliverable completion, the criteria is verified as done between you and the client PM (or key stakeholder) and they sign a formal document indicating that the deliverable is, in fact, completed. This document then becomes part of the project archive.
Why This Works
I don’t know about you, but I’ve worked on way too many projects where the key players change over time. That can cause real problems with getting things done and bringing new people up to speed on the project history. Not to mention that people forget. We’re all super busy and it’s not unusual for someone to question what’s been done, and why, to a certain point in your project.
Having a formal deliverable verification and sign off process you can access when needed can help make the transition smoother and help your project stay on the path to success.