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Project Charter – Pleasure or Pain?

How often have you been told that you must write a project charter before people can start work on your project?

How often have you actually written and formalised that project charter?

Always and never are most probably you answers.

Why is it so difficult to get a meaningful project charter written?

That is a question I asked many times and now have a guaranteed method of ensuring that within 90 minutes, you will have drafted a project charter that is useful and fit for approval.


Let me take you through my 8 step process. It involves a workshop that lasts between sixty and ninety minutes and as an output from the workshop, you will have all the information you need to get a project charter ready to issue for review and subsequent approval.

Let’s start.

Step 1: Participants

Identify the key participants for your workshop. This should include the project sponsor, project lead (you), and the client at a minimum. Also include stakeholders who will be impacted by the proposed outcome of the project.

Step 2: Preperation

Make sure that you have a meeting room or working area with whiteboard, markers or flip charts and enough wallspace to hang the flip chart if required. You need to act as a facilitator, but have a plan to appoint someone as scribe and another as timekeeper

Step 3: Kick Off

Bring the project group together. Do a short check-in to ensure that everyone is mentally tuned in to the objective of the workshop – to draft a project charter

Explain that this will be a short workshop with the purpose of creating clear structure and direction for the project ahead. It will be fast and focused. There will be eight questions which you will discuss as a group, capture the answers on paper, then transfer to a digital document and issue for review and approval

To keep the energy and speed going, it may be useful to stand around a whiteboard/flipchart, rather than sit at a table

Step 4: No distractions – Parking Lot

Create a Parking Lot on the wall/table. Explain that this is to support us with focus. You will “park” any points or questions that don’t directly contribute to answering the eight questions. The parking lot items can be discussed or answered after the workshop.

Step 5: Allocation of time

Agree as a group how long you have to spend on this. Divide that time equally between the 8 questions: e.g. if you have 90 minutes, you can spend 10 minutes per question, with the other 10 minutes for check-in and check-out.

As the facilitator your job is to keep the discussion focused and purposeful.

Step 6: The 8 key questions

Write up (or stick up a printed copy of) the following questions. Address each one in turn for the allotted time.
Purpose: What is the overall purpose of the project? (express this in one sentence)
Desired Outcome: What specific outcomes should be achieved by the end of the project? (aim for 2-4 bullets)
Target Group & Value: Who are you doing the project for? And what value does it provide to those people? (aim for 3 bullets or less)
Roles: Who is involved and what are they responsible for? Here are some suggested roles: Lead – leading or owning the project. Wingman – main support for the lead, on a day-to-day basis. Core – the main group of people working on the project. Advisory – people the core team can go to for input and feedback. Decision – leader or manager with the responsibility to approve the project.
Milestones & Budget: What needs to happen by when? And how much money do you have? (broken down into bullet points, major milestones and overall budget available)
How: How will the team work together, how will you be organised, communicate, divide tasks, collaborate, and approach decision making (try to define these 5 guidelines with a short descriptions for each)
Success / Fiasco Criterias: What do success look like? What does failure look like? (aim for 4-5 bullet point for each one)
Connections: What projects are connected to this one?

Step 7: Next steps – draft and issue for review

When each question has been answered and documented, decide who will take responsibility to compile all of this into a digital document to be shared with the team. Before closing the session clarify any points that need clarifyication.

Step 8: Check-Out

Finish with a check-out, asking each person what their next action is related to this project.

That’s it. Within 90 minutes you will be ready to issue your project charter for review. This will form the contract between the client and the project team and as such is a key project document.

Please leave comments. I will review them and choose one of you for a free 90 minute Skype call to run a workshop for you to draft a project charter.

Next, I will share the output from a recent project that I kicked off to reduce a backlog of CAPAs. Until the next time.

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  1. William- Excellent post. I’m leveraging to run a similar session tomorrow. Would love to be considered for the free session.