Project Charters Are the Secret to Keeping Teams on Track.
Real success occurs when you combine the big picture with concrete action. A mid-sized manufacturing company I recently worked with wanted to create a business strategy. The challenge was that their leaders had so many projects going, people barely had time to meet together to formulate their plan. The executive team eventually met and listed their top priority opportunities for the year. We then looked at them with a new strategic lens – instead of outlining “plans,” they defined project “charters” for each. By doing so, they were able to step back and see their portfolio of opportunities with a new lens which helped them re-prioritize their focus and give funding to the projects with the greatest upside.
A Project Plan is a List of Ingredients. A Project Charter is the Recipe.
A Project Charter is very short document (which you can download here) that lists your overall objectives and the success factors for achieving them. It’s essentially a cheat sheet that keeps you and your team focused on what matters most over time so you don’t get lost in the day-to-day details.
When creating your Project Charter, consider these categories and questions:
- What is your overall goal? What is the major problem or opportunity that you will address?
- What’s in versus out of scope? What will you do versus explicitly not do?
- Who’s involved? What people or groups must be involved, and what role do they play?
- What is the business case? What are the financial or other benefits that the project will bring to the organization, customers or other stakeholders?
- What are the success measures? What quantifiable metrics will you use to assess success?
- What resources are required? What funding, time, materials, or other resources are needed?
- What’s the timeline? What are the major phases or milestones?
- What are the risks? What obstacles might prevent success?
- What are the success factors? What must be done or put in place to ensure success?
You can easily modify the questions to fit your needs by adding or replacing some of the questions listed above.
A Project Charter is a strategic tool for communicating what you’re doing and how, without getting lost in the weeds. The best leaders engage their teams in building the charter from scratch because they know that people support what they help create.
About the Author
Soren Kaplan is the bestselling and award winning author of Leapfrogging and The Invisible Advantage, an Affiliate at the Center for Effective Organizations at USC’s Marshall School of Business, a columnist for Inc. Magazine, a globally recognized keynote speaker, and the Founder of Praxie. Business Insider and the Thinkers50 have named him one of the world’s top management thought leaders and consultants.