I was so pleased when I read the “Develop Project Charter” section of Project Integration Management in PMBOK Fourth Edition. They have finally caught up with what really happens in real projects (maybe they have been reading JIMBOK
In JIMBOK, Integration Management I wrote:
“The charter should be written by the project manager (or at least a PM), as the PM is the person in the organisation with the necessary skills to create the charter”.
And this is what I have been teaching project managers for years. But you wouldn’t believe the struggles I’ve had to get some PM’s to accept it.
They argued that only a sponsor could draw up a charter, but my response was that many sponsors don’t have the necessary skills or training required to write a charter, yet it’s well within a project manager’s capabilities.
Then they argued that as it was the charter that named and authorized the project manager, the project manager could not be involved in it’s writing. Who says they can’t?
Well these arguments are pretty well settled, when you read PMBOK Fourth Edition.
“It is recommended that the project manager participate in the development of the project charter”
And Page 74
“Projects are authorized by someone external to the project such as a sponsor, PMO, or portfolio steering committee. The project initiator or sponsor …will either create the project charter or delegate that duty to the project manager. “
So I think that’s pretty clear.
The other reason of course why you, as project manager, should write (or being heavily involved in the writing of) the charter, is that the charter will have a big influence on your project, and so it makes a lot of sense having some level of control or influence of your own, in these earliest stages.
Small is beautiful
And I’ll finish with a reminder that the charter is a very high-level document with very few pages (often one or two pages). Why? Because in these earliest stages nobody knows much detail (and what they do know will change – often). Besides, the more you have in writing at the stage, the more people will argue over it, so it will delay the project authorization and you can’t bill the arguing time to the project. Why not?
Because the project isn’t authorized, so there’s no budget of cost account!
Never mind the quality, feel the width.
Some consultancy firms that I’ve dealt with have a 200+ page tome of standard “boilerplate” that they call a charter, and they sell this to unsuspecting organisations (with changes to the relevant fields, of course). This looks impressive when printed with a glossy, full-color binding, but it costs more per pound than precious metal, and is as worthless as lead.
Many projects fail in the early stages, so follow this simple advice and give your project a fighting chance.
Jim Owens PMP
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