Are we too polite to ask for sign off on certain things.  Every PM should have a sign-off log.  It is well within your accountability to ask for a sign off and enter that sign off into your Sign Off Log.

It is human nature to forget what we have agreed to, especially if asked to approve something verbally and our mind is occupied on 5 other things at that moment, and in the heat of the moment we agree, but in the end, were rushed into it or did not put the focus and priority that we should have.

Put some formality and structure and consistency around sign-offs.  This will be better for both the person signing off and the person requesting the sign off.

The type/means of sign off you ask for is dependent on the size/complexity and also the level of person (CEO vs Director).  Different means of sign-off include:  signed paper, signed electronically, response of approval in an email, verbal, etc.

A more common approach used today (especially if requiring multiple sign-offs) and also now being accepted in court more and more is approval and acceptance via email.  It mostly depends on how you word the email to them and then how they respond.  E.g. when sending the email, at a minimum, clearly state "Please print your name and the words Approved and the date, in accordance to the Item you are approving".  Then put a clear description of the item you are asking them for approval and acceptance..  Then also state to the effect "upon entering in the words "John Doe, Approved, Jan. 13, 2014, you are accepting and approving the item as described below and this will be formally entered into the Project Management Approvals log.  The implications and next steps of this sign-off include: .......... <<<< then enter a statement or bullet points what this sign off means and what will be the result and next steps>>>>....."

How you word the email can be customzied for your company, the KEY thing though is to be consistent.  Create a template of text for the email and have it followed by all people requesting a sign-off.

Another example of a work instruction/set of guidelines can be seen at:  sign-off process

A sign-off formalizes that the proper people were communicated to.  Then they must also take it seriously and provide any feedback at the time.

Examples of things that you can be asking for approvals/sign-off include:

  • Deliverable Sign-Off
  • Milestone Sign-Off
  • Document Sign-Off
  • Issue Sign-Off
  • Change Request Sign-Off
  • Resource Change Sign-Off
  • Procurement Sign-Off
  • Test Plan Sign-Off
  • Testing Sign-Off
  • Audit Sign-Off
  • Project Sign-Off

Sign-Off Log columns include:  ID, Item Title, Item Description, Date Requested to Sign, Date Signed, Signer Name, Signer Title, Signer Department/Co., Type of Sign-off, Comments, Actions, Status

For items that require a high number of sign-offs, you should create your own log specific to that item (e.g. Change Requests, Issues, Risks, etc).