I’ll cut straight to the chase: Project Management is tough. It’s a demanding job that involves a lot of moving pieces. Even if you don’t have ‘project manager’ as your job title, odds are that you’ll lead a project at some point in your career. There are a few easy(ish) steps to make your project a success, with just four must-have project management documents.

To perfect the science of project management, you can’t really get away from documentation: meeting notes, timelines, change orders, and a lot more. I am a firm advocate against ‘over documenting’, but swear by these four project management documents to run a successful project, and always turn to projectmanagement.com for templates and inspiration.

Project Charter

Starting a project without a charter is like building a house without a foundation. You need solid footing to base the rest of your project activities on, and you need the team to understand and agree to that foundation.

A project management charter includes:

  • The business case – why are we doing this?
  • Project goals – with metrics detailing how to measure the success of the goals.
  • Timeline – a high-level schedule based on milestones.
  • Out-of-scope elements – it’s often easier to list what’s not included in a project. This can be really helpful for setting expectations!
  • Assumptions & Constraints – anything that you’ve identified during discovery that might impact the timeline or goals.
  • Team members – just a simple name and title, with a brief description of their responsibilities.
Forcivity template for Project Charter document
An example of Forcivity’s project management template for a Project Charter.

Project schedule

It’s not enough to just hope that you’ll get through the tasks before the deadline; you have to start at the beginning and plan out tasks and milestones.

A good Project Management schedule includes:

  • Major deliverables, broken down by task
  • Start and end dates for tasks
  • Task owners
  • Dependencies

Go with the flow: even the most detailed and meticulous schedules are bound to change. As long as humans are in charge, there will be decisions made along the way that change the schedule. The key to successful Project Management is adapting and adjusting to these changes.

Status report

This is a vital communication tool for your project stakeholders, and are useful for day-to-day project members as well as the less involved stakeholders.

A useful Project Management status report includes:

  • Summary of the goings-on for the time period. Detailing any decisions made or significant conversations helps everyone understand how the project is progressing.
  • Completed and upcoming tasks. The recipients should be able to check these tasks against the timeline and see the progress clearly.
  • Issues and risks. Anything that has come up that might jeopardize the timeline or project should be noted here, as well as a mitigation plan (or, at least, ideas for a mitigation plan).
Forcivity project management status update
An example of Forcivity’s project management status report document.

Post-project closeout

Formally closing a project brings closure to the team and allows them to celebrate the successes and identify items to improve for the future.

A good post-project closeout includes:

  • Successes. This is the time to give kudos and make sure your team knows how appreciated their work is.
  • Shortcomings. It’s okay to touch on what didn’t work. Usually, this won’t be a surprise to anyone and talking about it can ensure you don’t make the same mistakes twice.
  • Changes for the future. Each project closure is an opportunity to take a fresh look at your project management process and make sure it’s working for you and your customers. Don’t be afraid to iterate and find what works best for your team structure!

Project management can be seen as a daunting task, but starting with these four documents will give you a solid foundation and set you up for success.