Project Charter

When it comes to new product introductions and other major projects, most organizations have a standard project charter that must be competed and approved before the project can begin.  A project charter can take several forms, depending on the type of project and the organization’s preferences –

  • For new product development and other projects that involve large cash outlays and major resource commitments, a one-page project charter with financial metrics is very common.  Oftentimes an organization will review multiple charters  on a monthly basis, making the concise format essential for a productive meeting.
  • Some organizations, particularly government agencies, still use lengthy project charter documents that elaborate on  project deliverables, timing, etc.  Here is an example used by the CDC.
  • For smaller projects such as those in the continuous improvement realm, the project charter can take on a simple one-page format that does not include financial payback, etc.  Here is an example of a team charter for a six sigma project.

Independent of the charter format being developed, there are a few success factors that help promote a successful project.

Project Scope is a Big Deal –  “Scope creep” occurs when a project’s deliverables evolve after the project is already underway.  Scope creep typically happens in the wrong direction for the project team, creating more deliverables than the team originally signed up for.  Scope creep can set a team up for failure by creating an impossible set of deliverables as the project progresses.  Without a project charter, the project manager will have very little to fall back on when it comes keeping the organization’s expectations in line with the original project goals.

Consult with Your Stakeholders – Have you ever watched a meeting go off track because one or more stakeholders (those who are impacted by the project, positively or negatively) present in the meeting was not consulted with ahead of time?  This is a common occurrence that can be prevented by identifying an interviewing project stakeholders prior to the project charter review meeting (consider using a stakeholder analysis template as well).  Oftentimes project stakeholders simply need to be listened to, and small changes can be made to the project charter to accommodate their needs, resulting in a much smoother project approval and implementation process.

Negotiate Your Timeline – Presenting an aggressive project timeline will impress the organization’s leaders in most cases, but if the timeline is unrealistic the project will alway be behind schedule, which can impact the team’s morale (not to mention the project manager’s job security!).  Be conservative when you set your project timeline, anticipating that delays and unexpected events will slow down the project.

If by chance your organization does not have a project charter document or supporting process for reviewing and approving charters, consider introducing a standard project charter and training the organization in how to use it.  Your leadership team and the rest of the organization will likely thank you for your efforts!