This episode happened pre-Internet. Trying to find information about the ideal process was a waste of time. The information was not out there. However, at about the exact same moment, 1973, the AIA was preparing their first Document D-200, Project Checklist. Finally the recipe I sought was available. Kind of.
The AIA’s Project Checklist strikes me as a tool for a big firm project manager, which is probably who wrote it. It is comprehensive in an ‘outline’ kind of way. See what you think.
Last week I posted a project management idea using Trello and Harvest. A Checklist-dependent idea. There are probably ways of doing project management without lists, but lists work extremely well for me. The purpose of the lists is to keep you focused. To remind you of all the “bases” that need to be touched. And to suggest a sequential order that will keep you from redesigning the stuff you would have jumped the gun on.
Before I move on, let me explain that I don’t think I am being arbitrary about liking checklists. Checklists definitely have some benefits.
- Organization of the project, which provides an informational job aid and compensates for potential limitations
- Facilitates Delegation through identifying the component parts
- Productivity by saving time, primarily by eliminating re-work.
- Enhances Creativity by making the mundane routine
- Generates Excellence through consistency and completeness
Checklists create a repeatable process, which increases the value of your organization by raising your standards. This is a top business goal.
The Hard-Learned Lesson
The sequence issue was a hard-learned lesson. We once spent several months, meeting weekly, to discover what were our major recurring problems. There were a couple dozen.
Example: We prided ourselves on our grasp of codes. However, we found that it wasn’t doing any good to apply that knowledge for the first time in the second half of Design Development. Lesson learned: check codes early and often.
The Design Strategy Tool Started It All For Me
The Design Strategy Tool was an early attempt to make use of what we had learned about how checklists could improve our performance.
It is more of an overall project checklist. Another use that I made of it was in preparation of proposals. I used it as a way of qualifying what was, or was not, included in our work. I continue to find it an easy way to get a grasp on a project’s complexity. And an easy way to not overlook anything we might be responsible for.
Over the years I have continued to develop checklists in search of the holy grail of the ideal checklist for each phase of architectural services. Some of the people who contributed ideas (unknowingly) to my effort:
- First was an article in Architectural Record (1980’s) promoting an assembly-style organization of checklists. This is still evident in the major groupings of tasks within each phase.
- Then there was Fred Stitt and his Guidelines Project Management System, which I purchased. The unfortunate thing about this system was that it was soooo detailed that it was off-putting. However, it showed that a complete system was possible, and it wasn’t just a snipe hunt that I was on.
- More recently I stumbled upon Glen Wiggins’ book, which I found mentioned in the San Francisco Institute of Architecture’s curriculum. SFIA was founded by Fred Stitt. Anyway the book, A Manual of Construction Documentation, was a major inspiration. The concept of subdividing phases into steps comes from his book.
The Architectural Practices lists are really very well done. I suspect that I will be doing some borrowing from what I see there.
The results of all these inputs has been published here in a former post.
You can see that the idea of phase checklists has been on my mind for decades; and now it is a retirement hobby.
My Plan Is To Build Phase Checklists In Trello
My plan at the moment is to build phase checklists in Trello. A key element of the idea of phase checklists is a reusable task list. The public board, Project II, is a preview of where this is heading.
Trello offers all the features that I’ve been looking for.
- Shareable with the whole design team (and client?).
- Able to be easily duplicated for each new project.
- Able to hold comments and questions that are shared with the team.
- Able to set due dates and make assignments (delegations).
- Inexpensive (free).
As you explore Trello you will quickly see that all these features are covered as well several other nice-to-haves: labels, attachments, and integration with Harvest. Integration with Harvest lets you track time that is spent on the project in the same format as your tasks are laid out.
Every month or so I will be publishing my progress in developing the overall project checklist by phases. Keep yourself posted on my progress by subscribing to these posts by email. A benefit of signing up now is access to the published Trello project management checklists.
(revised Nov 2015)