In the course of talking shop with contractors from various parts of the country, I’m always surprised how few require that their project managers keep a personal project diary.
Keeping a project journal is not so important to project managers personally as much as it should be important to you, their boss.
Considering how fallible the mechanisms of human memory are, it’s shocking to me how many contractors blindly follow recommendations from their project managers’ memories to pursue, or not pursue, courses of action in court or through arbitration.
Every single project manager under me has always had to keep a personal project journal that is updated daily. If project managers are responsible for multiple jobs, a single journal works better than multiple ones anyway.
Keeping a personal project journal is not so important to project managers personally as much as it should be important to you, their boss. What information they write in it, or neglect to, can either potentially bankrupt your company or provide everyone with nice Christmas bonuses.
What should be written down in such a journal? In one sentence: Write down anything that could potentially affect job completion, performance, cost and profitability. Anything that might come back and bite your company should have a written record of it made by your project manager in his daily journal.
His journal should be clearly labeled on the cover “(His name’s) Personal Journal.” On the first page that should be repeated along with another disclaimer “personal property of (his name).” Why? Because if a job does go south and winds up in litigation, his personal journal cannot be subpoenaed because it’s his personal property, not the company’s, and isn’t part of official company or job records.
I always prefer that project managers keep a hardbound journal with bound blank pages to be written in as needed, like the ones you can buy in any stationery store. That way, if any pages are torn out it’s obvious.
And they always have to write in blue ink, not black. Mistakes are simply scratched through and rewritten. The information contained in the writing is always more important than the style of writing, as long as it’s legible.
With the advent of computers, concessions have to be made, but not at cost of accountability or traceability.
At the beginning of each job, on their home computers if they have one (great!) or on the jobsite computer if they don’t, project managers create a file folder clearly labeled “(His name’s) Personal Journal.” Inside the folder, he creates a daily job log-entry template in whatever word-processing program is on the computer. The template again states first and foremost “(His name’s) Daily Journal Entry,” the job name and location and other pertinent information, then has a field for the date and time and then space for the daily entry.
When project managers sit down to do a day’s mind-dump, they copy the template, renaming it simply as that day’s date, then proceed to write about any and everything which might prove to affect the job at a later date. Making them copy this template on a daily basis has the same effect as making them write in blue ink in a hardbound-book version. Any tampering of the text at a later date will be obvious.
Since their time is almost as important as your time, how long should project managers spend logging in important daily job events? Unless it’s been a hellish day for them, they usually won’t need more than five to 10 minutes putting the little things down while their memories are fresh.
Five to 10 minutes a day could, conceivably, protect or damn your company for eternity.