PM4DEV Blog

Ideas, suggestions and general thoughts about project management for development.

Initiating Phase

The Project Charter

The Project Charter is a communication tool that provides high-level information about the project. It is usually developed once the project has been approved by the donor, and its use is mostly internal to the organization.

The charter identifies who is the project manager, the purpose of the project,  its objectives, scope, constraints, assumptions, risks, and deliverables. These headings are commonly found in terms-of-reference and project contract documents. When initiating a project, it is important that all parties involved agree in considerable detail what the project is to achieve before it starts. Failure to gain formal agreement almost always leads to some expectations not being met.

The nice thing about the Project Charter is it provides a quick way of delivering all the important project information to stakeholders, without having to complete a full Project Document. It's a lot more digestible for busy stakeholders who may not have time to wade through a lengthy document when looking for a quick, but detailed overview of the project.

Most Project Charters contain the following information:
 

  • Background - Provide background information that includes the reasons for creating the project and mentions the key stakeholders who will benefit from the project result.
  • Objectives - Describe the project goals and link each of them with related, SMART project objectives.
  • Scope - Provide a high-level description of the deliverables or results the project is meant to achieve.
  • Schedule - Provide a high-level schedule of the start and end of the project, including significant milestones
  • Constraints - Identify the specific constraints or restrictions that limit or place conditions on the project, especially those associated with the project scope.
  • Assumptions - Specify all factors that are, for planning purposes, considered to be true. During the planning process, these assumptions will be validated.
  • Risks - Outline the risks identified at the start of the project. Include a quick assessment of the significance of each risk and how to address them.
  • Deliverables - Define the key deliverables that the project is required to produce in order to achieve the stated objectives.
  • Governance  - Describes how the project will be governed, and who is involved. Describes the approval process for major changes and the levels of authority in the decision-making process.
  • Roles and responsibilities - Defines the major roles and responsibilities of team members and key stakeholders.

Project Charters are useful documents that help you ensure that everyone knows the goals of a project. They minimize any confusion about what must be done within it and explain how things should be done. Using a Project Charter can help your project team get a good start by creating a positive and productive work environment, where everyone knows what their roles and responsibilities are.


Want to learn more? Register for the next session of our online course Adaptive Management for Development Organizations and NGOs and start building your project management skills. https://www.pm4dev.com/elearn/ecourses/eapm.html  

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The Project Kickoff Meeting

A good practice in project management is to hold a formal kickoff meeting to ensure all team members and key stakeholders have a good understanding of the purpose and objectives of the project. The kick-off meeting ensures that team members and stakeholders have the same levels of understanding about the purpose and status of the project. Just as a project should have a formal end-of-project meeting to signify that it is complete, it also makes sense to hold a formal kickoff meeting to start a project.

The purpose of the kickoff meeting is to formally notify all stakeholders that the project has begun and make sure everyone has a common understanding of the project and his or her role. The kickoff meeting is a time to get all the team members and stakeholders together and formally set the stage for the start of the project. Like all formal meetings, there should be an agenda.

A kick-off meeting has four basic functions:

  1. Officially state the start of the project
  2. Outline the project goals as well as the individual roles and responsibilities of team members; and stakeholders
  3. Clarify the expectations of all parties
  4. Build a commitment by all those who influence the project’s outcome.

There are a number of specific things to cover at this meeting:

  • Recap the information in the Project Charter, including:
  • The purpose of the project
  • Scope
  • Major deliverables
  • Risks
  • Assumptions
  • Estimated effort and budget
  • Deadline
  • Discuss the important roles and responsibilities of the project team and stakeholders.
  • Go over the general approach and timeline of the project. This gives people a sense of how the project will unfold. In particular to ensure that people understand what they need to be doing in the short-term to support the project.
  • Discuss and answer any outstanding questions. The purpose of the discussion is to allow people to voice specific questions or concerns they have as the project begins

The meeting can run anywhere from 2 hours to a full day depending on the size of the project and how much group time you want to spend on several project kickoff discussions and related deliverables. At the end of the kickoff meeting, the project team is ready to work with a common understanding of goals and a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities.

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