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Effective Project Charters Tie Back to Strategy

July 10th, 2008 · 706 Comments

You are new to a project.  The project itself is new, or perhaps you have been handed an initial project.  The is the place to start to get yourself oriented to where the project fits into the organization.

Project Charters are supposed to explain at a high level where the project fits into the organization, and what problem or problems it is supposed to solve.  The Project Charter is supposed to articulate the reason the project exists and is being undertaken.  It should provide at the most a few guiding principles or goals that support this reason for existence, and everything else should be derived from that.  This is the business purpose, or the business case, for the project.

Strategic Plan - Project Charter

The key driver within the organization from which the purpose stated in the Project Charter is derived should be the Strategic Plan.  Most large organizations have a Strategic Plan, but they can vary substantially in quality and substance.  In some organizations, there actually is no formal Strategic Plan, but the project manager can be extract ‘snippets’ of organizational strategy from other documents, statements, and reports.  In the end, you need to have an authoritative document that represents the overall key objectives, directions, and purposes of the organization that you can reference for guidance.

If a detailed review of the Project Charter does not make it clear how the project maps to the organizational strategy, this should set off a flag!  If the project is not having troubles now, it will likely have major problems at some point, unless you in the meantime draw a clear connect to organization goals and purpose!  Connect with the stakeholders and review the strategy for the organization and various units, and review the Project Charter from that perspective.  Hopefully there is a project sponsor who can help clarify this.  If there is a PMO or project portfolio management team, connect with them.  Establish the purpose of the project, and the link to organizational goals as a foundation activity of the project charter before proceeding further.
John Reiling, PMP
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Tags: Project Management Process