What allows a medical team to move around the patient’s bed with the same coordination of an orchestra playing Mahler’s “Symphony of a Thousand”? What prevents a routine surgery from turning into a fatal tragedy? What transforms an announced disaster into a perfectly executed manoeuvre? The answer is… checklists. And if you don’t believe me, read The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande. You’ll discover that a checklist can literally be a lifesaver in all those fields where the stakes are the highest.
The checklist method advocated by Awande requires discipline, team spirit and an almost obsessive attention to detail, all skills expected in a translation project manager. If you believe that creativity, talent and ability to improvise are essential to your line of work, you may think this methodology is not for you.
You couldn’t be more wrong.
The benefits offered by a checklist in managing complex situations are such that they overcome almost any resistance to change and provide unexpected benefits.
Why a Checklist for Translation Project Management?
Translation project management is not about saving lives, at least not directly. But it is made of repetitive discrete microtasks, which makes it the ideal ground for using checklists.
Although many translation management systems already offer various functionalities, we haven’t reached full automation yet, probably because each microtask is unique and largely unrelated to the other tasks. The project manager is the common thread, the link connecting all tasks. Therefore, even in a soon-to-come fully automated environment, there will be a human being — a project manager — keeping all the workflow steps under control.
How to Create a Translation Project Management Checklist That Works
All checklists are not created equal. Your checklist will very much depend on the project at hand. For example, for a literary translation you won’t need to include a terminology check. For a localization project, on the other hand, you will have to include control points (some may even not be language-related) that could have an impact on other workflow steps.
So, where do you start to develop your ideal translation project management checklist?
Here are some rules of thumb. And, as always, we encourage you to send us your suggestions.
1. First of all, ask yourself who is going to use the checklist: Only you? Your team? Is the checklist meant for one specific client or project?
2. Collect all the project requirements from your client. A few suggestions:
- Language pairs (including regional variations, if needed)
- Subject matter
- Content type (brochure, user manual, informed consent…)
- Intended audience
- Expected quality level
- Expected delivery date
- Specific regulations to follow (i.e. regulations for medical devices…)
- Format and encoding of the documents
- Status of the source documents (draft or finalized version?)
- And so on …
4. Evaluate time and costs and see whether they meet your client’s expectations. In some cases, you might need to negotiate different terms and delivery dates.
5. List all the activities (according to the SoW) you need to do or check as well as the agreed-upon timeline.
6. Pre-select and query your vendors. For more on vendor management, you might refer to Tips for a data-driven translation vendor management. And, of course, stay tuned: Tips for developing a vendor management checklist will be available soon.
7. Send all the source files to your vendor(s). If available, make sure to include:
- Instructions on how to handle the source documents
- Reference material
- Translation memories
- And anything else that’s relevant to them.
Now, while your vendors are translating, start preparing the checklist for the deliverables. Here are a few tasks you might want to include:
- Run the spellchecker
- Run the grammar checker
- Check for any missing text or formatting issues
- Check for locale issue (date formats, conversions, etc.)
- Check for any notes, comments or revision marks left by the translator
Last but not least, once all the checks are done and over with, do a post-project evaluation. Ask both your client and your supplier(s) to rate the different aspects of the project. For example, your client could rate the completed work; a translator could rate the complexity of the project; a revisor could rate the translator’s work.
You can use this information in the future to choose a supplier, to better meet client needs, and increase the quality of work done on future projects.
Implementing Your Translation Project Management Checklist
Once your checklist is ready, choose the right medium, from a piece of paper or a spreadsheet for simple (personal) workflows to a translation management system (TMS) for more complex jobs (for example, a project with multiple language pairs).
A TMS will allow you to save time by automating as much as possible and to create a comprehensive workflow for every client/project. With a flexible TMS you can, for example, customized email notifications (even if we live our lives online, we all like a personal touch); set up a customized QA step to include the deliverable checks; and manage details about suppliers and linguistic resources.
Because we love checklists, we have created the ultimate list to select your ideal translation management system.
Finally, consider discussing and sharing your checklist with your client and/or your vendors. This will help you not only to double check that every stakeholder is following the defined project requirements, but it will also encourage collaboration and teamwork.