Posted by: kerrywills | January 6, 2012

“Living” documents

I have seen many programs which load up file shares with documents, meeting minutes, e-mails, etc and I am always curious if anyone actually goes back to check on the progress of open items. Instead of having weekly notes with embedded action items I am a big fan of having central documents that are “living.” That is, they are constantly updated with new actions or status. This provides several benefits.

  • Central place where people know to go
  • Don’t have to search through documents (“hmmm was it the May 30th notes, the May 23rd notes or the May 16th notes”)
  • Always updated with status and progress


In most of my programs, I have centralize living documents for…

  • Action Items
  • Decisions
  • Risks
  • Issues
  • Team contact information

The punchline – make it easy for people to find/update information and consistently use it so people get into the habit of the diligence.



  1. I like having those documents in shareable locations as well that everyone can update. The problem really seems to be about imposing a new workflow on everyone.

    What seems to happen is that people use their mailbox as their task list.

    1: Get an email from someone.
    2: Work that problem
    3: Go back to email and look for more

    So, unless your system sends out emails that they need to check the document for updates, people don’t like the idea of having to read a full document to see what has changed so they know what they’re supposed to be doing.

    I like the way Sharepoint lists work for this. People can update everything in a central location, the files don’t get locked or overwritten if a few people update their tasks at the same time, and finally, it sends emails to individuals who are impacted by their updated documents or tasks so they can work the way they’re used to working.

  2. Steve – Fair enough but I see these lists as items for us as PMs to use to facilitate meetings and get closure and not necessarily as workflow for the team members

  3. As a business app owner, I make sure that after every release the IT folks go back and update a business “rules” document and screen shots, so that I always have system docs up to date. I know that if I wasnt on top of them and reminding them EVERY release, it wouldnt happen. Thats what happens after a project is over, the rigor goes away once something becomes maintenance.

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