Podcast Episode 6: Effective Documentation in Project Management

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In this episode, I share my personal views on what you need to document as a project manager and what you can skip, helping you manage your project more effectively and efficiently.

Why document anything at all?

You've probably heard the saying "spoken words fly away, written words remain" – basically, it means that the written, i.e. documented word is worth more than what is spoken. In other words, it serves to capture discussions or agreements made.

But why all this? Documenting can be a frustrating and time-consuming task in our already busy schedules.

Let's jump back in time and travel into the future of your project.

Imagine that you have already passed many important milestones in your project and made many decisions within the different phases. Now the programme management is changing and questioning some of these decisions. What would help you the most in this situation? You guessed it: a meaningful documentation.

Another scenario: Your project has been running smoothly so far, until the project budget has been significantly exceeded. The programme management is angry and questions many of the measures that have been taken. Here, too, you can already guess what will help you in this situation: a meaningful documentation.

Documentation is an essential part of project management
Documentation is an essential part of project management

As you can see, documenting is not just a chore that needs to be done during and after meetings – it's an essential part of project management. It creates transparency and thus traceability over the entire course of the project.

But among the numerous discussions and agreements from our daily meetings, what really needs to be documented?

Personally, I have two rules of thumb that guide my approach to effective documentation:


Every decision is documented: whether it involves bringing a specific department into the project or increasing the project budget.


All opportunities and risks must be documented and highlighted.

You're probably wondering how to ensure your documentation is effective. Let's review the essential requirements.

Your documentation must unequivocally clarify:

  • What was decided

  • Who was involved in this decision – the decision-makers

  • When the decision was made

  • Under what conditions the decision was made – essentially, the rationale behind it

Your notes should precisely address these points. Additionally, I recommend sharing the documentation with participants after meetings or workshops. This allows them to make any necessary corrections and use the notes as a reference.

For your practice, let me offer documentation tips for each project phase:


During project initiation, definition and planning, setting clear goals, scope, and requirements is crucial. Documenting a detailed work breakdown structure, risk analysis, and communication plan is essential. This documentation forms the basis for the entire project process and enables a structured approach.

Project initiation and planning
project implementation


During the project control phase, regular progress reports and status updates are essential. It is also crucial to document all change requests and their approvals to ensure clear tracking of decisions. Additionally, keeping updated timelines and resource allocations is vital to maintain the project on schedule and within budget.




The project completion includes a final report that summarizes the project’s results and highlights key lessons for future projects. It’s also crucial to review the project’s goals and outcomes against the initial planning to accurately assess its success. All your notes will be valuable references for this evaluation.

Project completion

Neglecting documentation in project management can lead to several significant issues. Here are some examples of what can go wrong:

  • Team Conflicts: When roles and responsibilities are not clearly documented, misunderstandings and conflicts can arise within the team, hindering collaboration and jeopardizing the project’s success.

  • Decision Justification Issues: Without proper documentation of decisions and changes, it becomes difficult to understand the rationale behind actions, complicating the justification of these actions to stakeholders and hindering the analysis of mistakes.

  • Risk Management Failures: Inadequate documentation of risks can result in potential hazards being overlooked or underestimated, leading to unforeseen issues that can delay the project and cause budget overruns.

  • Quality Control Problems: Without clear documentation of quality standards and inspections, quality issues may go unnoticed or be detected too late, affecting the final product's quality and diminishing customer trust.

  • Legal Disputes: Insufficient documentation of contractual agreements and acceptances can lead to legal conflicts with customers or suppliers. Without clear evidence of work performed or deliverables provided, disputes can arise that threaten the project’s stability and success.


In a nutshell, proper documentation in project management is essential for smooth project execution and timely identification and resolution of potential problems.

Now, let's consider the aspects that may be unnecessary:

Excessively detailed documentation can waste time and divert focus from more important tasks. Not all issues require extensive documentation, so the project manager should distinguish between trivial and significant problems.


Examples of unnecessary documentation effort:

  • Overly detailed meeting minutes:
    While it’s important to document meetings, overly detailed logs can be time-consuming and miss the point. A project manager should capture essential discussions, decisions, and actions in a clear format without getting lost in unimportant details.

  • Extensive reporting of daily activities:
    Documenting every single task or activity can be redundant and disrupt workflow. Instead of daily reports on every task performed, project managers should focus on summarizing progress, obstacles, and next steps.

  • Documenting irrelevant stakeholder communication:
    Not all stakeholder conversations or emails need detailed documentation. Project managers should record key decisions, agreements, or requests that affect the project.

  • Excessive documentation of project changes:
    While changes in the project need proper documentation, not all small adjustments should be recorded. Project managers should distinguish between significant changes impacting time, cost, or quality, and minor adjustments.

  • Documentation of temporary or non-important problems:
    Not every problem requires detailed documentation. Project managers should distinguish between trivial obstacles that do not affect the project and important issues that require a solution.



In summary, proper documentation is crucial to the success of a project. Clear and structured documentation can minimize risks, improve decision-making processes, and ensure project success.

As a project manager, maintaining a balanced documentation practice is key. This involves considering both the needs of the project and the efficiency of the team. By focusing on essential aspects and avoiding unnecessary documentation, you can drive project success and use resources effectively.


Tobias Wisst präsentiert Snacksize Projektmanagement

I hope these insights into documentation in project management have been helpful to you.

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Your Tobias – see you next time!

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