4 Essential tips for creating a project charter

Creating a project charter (following the PMI standard) is one of the first two things that you should accomplish during the initiating phase of the project lifecycle. Identifying your stakeholders is the other task that needs to be recognized during that phase.

The charter helps answer the questions: Why are you starting the project? How will the project start? What are the parameters? And how will it be executed? 

Here are four tips to help you create your project charter:

  1. Define the why
  2. Spend time defining the project’s scope
  3. Gain buy-in from your stakeholders
  4. Keep it brief, yet whole

The goal is to give your team, or anyone reading the charter a high-level, yet whole overview of the project. Another goal is to set expectations on paper regarding scope, budget, major milestones, goals, constraints, assumptions, and any known risks.

Define the why

Answer the question: Why are you starting this project? To kick-off, the charter, start by adding 1 – 2 short paragraphs with background information. By doing this, it helps clear any doubt and provides context on why this project now exists.

Spend time defining the project’s scope

One of a project manager’s worst nightmares is scope creep. As a project manager, you’re tasked with juggling the triple constraint – time, cost and scope, ultimately impacting the quality of work. If one of the triple constraints slips, then the other two are compromised in some way. 

Just as important as it is to define the scope, it is also very important to define what is out of scope in a separate statement. This helps create a clear message and hopefully circumventing scope creep.

Project Charter Template 

Project Charter template

Gain buy-in from your stakeholders

How you engage your stakeholders will determine how engaged and invested they are throughout the project lifecycle. Bring your key stakeholders into the charter creation process. Let them help you identify some of the assumptions, constraints, and risks, along with the scope statement.

Keep it brief, yet whole

The detail lies in the project’s business case and project plan. A project charter’s intention is to identify the scope and get your stakeholders on the same page prior to kicking-off a project. A charter can be a living document to accommodate approved changes, however, it should serve as a single source of truth to the project’s purpose and set course.  

These are just some tips to keep in mind when working on your project charter. What are some of your project charter tips?

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