Aug 28 2012
I had the opportunity to participate in a project management collaborative during the summer of 2012. The purpose of the collaborative was to conduct quality improvement sessions on the existing project methodology. The collaborative was conducted via small group break out sessions followed by a large group collaborative.
One of the main themes arising out of the sessions was around the subject of living versus dead documents. What makes a document living (changeable without strict change control) versus dead (changeable ONLY with strict change control)?
This was a topic of much discussion around the communication plan template in particular because our group had a formal sign off block on the template. The group questioned whether this was really useful or even appropriate since the communication plan is constantly being updated and executed as the project moves through the lifecycle. We all came to consensus that templates that are “living” should not have have formal approval (physical wet signature) but contain a structured accountability section (perhaps a RACI chart).
So what about “dead” documents? The ones governed by strict change control which would include documents that authorize scope, budget and schedule such as: Project Charters, Project Plans, Statements of Work, Change Requests, Summary and Variance Reports etc.
Should stakeholders/sponsors be physically signing off on the document or should it simply be documented when they have been informed of or reviewed the document?
Our collaborative agreed that when we receive sign off on “dead” documents we will not go back and reopen them. Any changes to scope, budget and/or schedule will be reflected in the next project baseline document (project plan, statement of work, change request, final variance etc.).
When you put a signature on a “dead” project document it is in essence a contract between the project and the sponsors and then becomes subject to the same type of rigour that is put on a contract.
In project management we should always strive to only apply strict change control to documents that absolutely need it (due to contractual, audit or other criteria). To apply it to living documents as well would be a waste of time and money (sponsor meetings, presentations and the like) that could be used to much greater effect some where else in the project.