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Best Practices for Creating the Project Charter

Developing a document that will help you manage your project!

While we all know that in theory the project charter is handed to the project manager from the project sponsor, in reality this never happens! The project manager develops the project charter based on information from the sponsor and other key stakeholders. Too often project manager skip developing a project charter and focus purely on the project scope statement. I prefer to use both documents. The charter enables me to get my head around the project and the expectations – at a high level – of the sponsor and other key stakeholders. I take this information, once finalized and approved by the sponsor, and develop my project scope statement. This charter enables me to better manage my stakeholders as the project work takes place. I frequently refer back to that charter to ensure we stay on track with the project, pushing back as necessary when the project is taking the wrong direction or is at risk of doing so. It enables me to have better conversations regarding changes to the project.

Here are the best practice steps I take to create a project charter:

  1. Compile all of the information I already have for the project based on emails I have received from the sponsor and others, memos I have received and conversations I have had. I add that information to the project charter – filling in whatever blanks I can based on my knowledge of the business and what the business is trying to accomplish.
  2. Review the charter with the project sponsor and any other key stakeholders to validate the information I have and fill in the blanks. I have found that by going in to this meeting with a charter that includes not just the information they have provided but also information that I assume to be valid based on my knowledge of the business, I’m able to have better, more productive and efficient conversations about the purpose of the project. The more I know about the project the better I can manage it and share that information with the project team to get them engaged, committed and excited about the initiative.
  3. Revise the project charter with the additional information based on my conversation with the project sponsor and other key stakeholders. Incorporate any new information and identify any new questions or concerns for another conversation with the sponsor.
  4. Review the charter one more time with the sponsor and any other key stakeholders. Get any additional questions or concerns addressed.
  5. Finalize the charter and get sign off from the sponsor.

While this may seem initially like a large effort, it really is not. Spending this time up front to get the charter accurate enables for me to develop strong relationships with the project sponsor and any other key stakeholders. It also ensures that I understand what we are doing with this project and why – which enables me to have better conversations with team members and other stakeholders. You can’t effectively manage a project – and get others committed to it – if you don’t know the business reason behind the project. You notice that in each conversation with the sponsor I have advanced progress on the charter. Additionally, I have taken some steps in filling in the blanks myself based on knowledge I already have. It may not be completely accurate, but enables for far more productive conversations.

See an example of a project charter and download a template to use on your next project.

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