The Project Charter: Your Friend From Start To End

Mike Girdler

Document your project success with a project charter If you were to ask most project managers what a project charter is, and how it works, …

Document your project success with a project charter

Project charter = successIf you were to ask most project managers what a project charter is, and how it works, you would probably get something like this: the project charter establishes the project. It outlines who the project manager is and their authority. The charter indicates the business case for the project, deliverables, and milestones. As well, it defines what’s in scope. It also serves to outline the budget, high level risks, assumptions, and constraints. Finally, it outlines roles and responsibilities and stakeholder requirements. There may be subtle differences to what project managers include, or don’t include, but this would be a pretty representative response.

While each of the aforementioned elements on their own play important roles, it is the use of the fully completed charter that delivers value, as it defines success for the project and success for the Project Manager, from project start to finish.

During the initiation of a project, the charter can be used to get all stakeholders centered and define roles and responsibilities. For example, the charter contains a project statement that clearly outlines the purpose of the project, it outlines the situation that led to the selection of the project, what’s in scope and key performance indicators – what success looks like. The charter can also illustrate roles and responsibilities – who’s doing what on the project, when, and how. At the outset of the project, the project charter gets everyone on the same page and ensures people know what is expected of them.

The charter also plays a critical role throughout the entire life of the project. It acts as the project’s anchor and a constant reference source.  It can be referenced to answer any questions related to scope, and help control and/or eliminate scope creep during points in the project’s execution. It can act as a reminder to stakeholders of their agreed upon role and contribution to the project. If someone is not delivering or following the timelines of the project, the authority outlined in the charter gives the Project Manager the ability to enforce timelines, deliverables, and get people back on track. The charter is a project document that the Project Manager can use at any time during the life of the project to stay on time, budget, and scope.

Most Project Managers would likely agree on the components of a charter but the real value is in its use. Use the project charter to the advantage of the project – at the start, and through to the end to realize project success.

Download our free mini-charter template and be sure your small project is a success from start to finish.


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Michael Girdler is a vice-president, CornerStone Dynamics Inc. His blogs focus on all things project management. Throughout Mike's career, he has invested deeply into projects involving sales, marketing, training and development, continuing education, and communications environments.

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