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How to Write a Quick and Easy Project Charter That Contains 8 Essential Elements
By Vivian Kloosterman

So you want to write a quick and easy Project Charter that sets your project off on the right path by outlining the preliminary framework, providing clear guidance to your team and stakeholders and ensuring the organization and senior management are committed to the project.

To achieve these objectives a project charter must contain eight essential elements:

  1. Project Authorization – This includes the name of the project, its formal authorization and a very brief description of the project.
  2. Goals and Scope – The project’s broad scope and high level goals are outlined in greater detail than in the Project Authorization. The preliminary scope describes what the project involves, any high-level resource or requirement descriptions, and what constitutes successful completion. Project goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound. SMART goals and objectives make it easy to track and measure progress and success. High level risks can also be included.

  3. Deliverables – A concise description of the high level deliverables required by the client, project sponsor or stakeholders at the successful completion of the project.

  4. Business Case – The benefits of the project to the organization and its alignment with organizational objectives. How will this project enable the organization to meet its objectives?

  5. Project Manager’s Authority – The Project Manager is named and given authority to interact with management and allocate resources. Depending on the project scope and the organizational structure, the project manager will have varying levels of authority and responsibility for resources, scheduling and expenditure.

  6. Time frame – This section sets out the preliminary time frame. Be aware that this will change, because as the project progresses, tasks and milestones together with their associated requirements become more clearly defined.

  7. Budget Summary – Sets out the preliminary summary budget. This may also change as the project progresses, but any changes must be communicated by the project manager and approvals gained. The project manager is usually authorized to approve expenditures up to the specified budget amounts.

  8. Project Sponsor – Sets out name(s) of the project sponsor(s) and the sponsor’s signature. The sponsor is the appropriate person to sign the charter, because he or she is the person who will be actively supporting the project. You can also think about getting your customer to sign the charter as this displays confidence from both the sponsor and the customer.

When written in the project charter these elements define and authorize the project, its resources and activities. I’d like to think, that after some practice, it won’t take you more than half a day to write a quick and easy project charter. That’s assuming you have the project details at hand. If you don’t know your project goals or other important details it might just take you a bit longer!

And a final tip – a well-written charter specifies the “means,” but not the “end.” It is important that the “means” is left to the project manager and the team. So find the right balance with your charter. If the charter is unclear or fuzzy, that wastes time and causes confusion about what actions are supposed to be taken. On the other hand, being overly prescriptive diminishes the benefits of having a talented team. It is best to encourage your team to self-manage and do goal focused work.

Vivian Kloosterman is the founder of Continuing Professional Development with over 30 years of professional experience in the fields of business leadership, governance, project, risk and resource management and professional engineering. Continuing Professional Development offers online training courses on Stakeholder Identification and Analysis to help you engage effectively with stakeholders. The course includes a Stakeholder Analysis template so you can easily carry out Stakeholder mapping and then stakeholders automatically plot on the Influence/Interest matrix. A scenario based case study followed by an online discussion forum allows you to apply your learning and discuss your stakeholder analysis with your online colleagues. To find out more about how our online courses provide essential skills to advance your career and add to the intellectual wealth of individuals and organizations go to www.continuingprofessionaldevelopment.org.

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