Tag Archives: project charter

Please Elaborate…. Progessively

“Why do the Project Charter and the Project Scope Statement contain some of the same information?”

“We just provided that information, isn’t this just repetitive? Are we wasting time?”

Excellent questions.

When you are creating some of your project management deliverables, you might feel like you are repeating yourself. You are. But you also are not. Confused? Let’s consider progressive elaboration.

As you start your project, you do not know what you do not know. You start off with some basic information. For example,

• The purpose of this project is to improve our customer experience by providing customer service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Because you know your organization and your industry, you might already have some strong ideas about what the above really means and how it will really be accomplished. It is also possible that your organization is looking to shake things up and do things differently. How do you know?

Ask questions of course! Question your project sponsor and your key stakeholders about their plans for customer service. Take the purpose statement that was used to create a business case or a project proposal and you elaborate on it. Perhaps as you are writing the charter you find out more:

• The purpose of this project is to improve our customer experience by providing customer service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to existing account holders only.

Now you know more, you have elaborated on your previous understanding. This is progressive elaboration at work.  And this might be enough to write a Project Charter to announce the project and for the project to be granted a project manager and to be assigned a priority.

Next you and your team discuss the best way to provide customer service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

• You can hire extra customer service representatives and open up the phone lines to 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
• You can set up a service where customers can text their questions and they receive a response also via text.
• You can set up an online customer service question forum where customers can post their questions and receive a response within an agreed turn around time.
• You can give customers access to a specific Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) area for after hours questions.
• You can assign each customer a customer service concierge with a specific hotline they can call or text or email 24/7

All of the above could meet the stated purpose of providing customer service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to existing account holders only. Which approach or approaches will you use?

With additional discussion with your sponsor and your stakeholders, you learn that they had absolutely no intention of providing a customer concierge service. They also do not like the idea of paying for extra customer service representatives. But they do not think that a text message-based service is good enough. After discussion, it becomes apparent that no matter what approach is used, human beings will be required to provide the service. In order to reduce the costs of adding staff or paying overtime to current staff, it is decided that the solution will involve a text message based solution, combined with a FAQ area and an online customer service question forum. The constraint you receive is that each shift will have no more than two representatives working.

Progressive elaboration has taken you from an initial idea or statement about providing customer service to a definition of who receives this extra level of customer service. Now you are defining how.

As you have progressed through the project you have elaborated on what you are really doing. Each formal deliverable that discusses the purpose of the project contains additional information. Once the scope statement is signed off, you expect fewer changes. Otherwise, you might find yourself contending with scope creep.  An excellent discussion for another day.

Project Charter: How Important Is It?


Note: This article is by Randy Tangco, PMP, CSM.

The steering committee made a decision. They need to create a project because there is a business need to be resolved. Assign the project manager, assign the resources, and start working. Hmmm? Does this sound familiar to you?

What is the first document you need to have after the selection of a project? The project charter, of course! Every project management practitioner knows that the project charter is an important document to any project as it is an indication of your authority to start a project and use company resources as the assigned project manager. However, majority of the organizations do not recognize this and value its importance or sometimes misuse the project charter for another purpose.

Take great pride and care in your project charter because this is where you sow the good seed. It will eventually take care of you. Buy a high-quality leather-bound portfolio the kind graphic artists use to highlight their best work. In this portfolio, you keep an original example of a very important project document, the project charter. Why? The leather-bound portfolio demonstrates to everyone the value that you place in this document. The PMBOK Guide, describes a project charter mainly in terms of what it can do for the project. Just as important, you should consider what this document can do for you. If your employer allows you to keep this document, take your leather-bound portfolio to your job interviews. It will demonstrate to your future employer that a charter is a high priority.

The project charter is an excellent tool to overcome personal adversity, even cultural gaps, and misunderstandings in projects. Many organizations have recognized that project management is a key competency that is needed to help meet the business strategy. However, they seldom see the value of a project charter as part of the project management initiative. Let?s take a look at an example of how the project charter was not used correctly.

Project Selection and Chartering

Let us take a look at a company. This company created a project charter template that is supposed to contain the project purpose, background, business case, scope, SDLC deliverables, milestones schedule, initial cost estimate, high-level risks, project management plan and cost-benefit information. All of this information will have to be written by the project manager on his own; guessing some of the data needed to complete the charter because there is no input from the company people that is requesting the project. This is a challenging and frustrating activity.

First, the business case should have already been written by the business sponsor and should have been an input of the project selection and approval process. In this case the project manager will have to write this on his own. Another problem that I see is the milestone schedule. I believe this is one data you should not have in the charter especially when you have not formed your project team and has no idea on the scope of work. Unfortunately you will frequently be pushed to include a milestone schedule.

Looking at the content of this charter, the review and approval cycle takes about a month depending on the availability of the reviewers and approvers. The aggravating factor here is that the time you spent building the charter is also being built-in to the time you have for the project duration. By simply looking at this at a high-level, you may already known that your project will be challenging.

How A Good Charter Could Improve Projects

The basic purpose of the charter is to authorize a project manager to start an approved project and use resources to accomplish the goals of the project. Alex Brown, the CEO of Real-Life Project, Inc., once said that a project charter can be a simple email from the CEO to the PM. Intriguing, isn?t it?

A project charter can become very important after a project has started as well. Josh Nankivel, PMP, a trainer and founder of pmStudent, said that ?A project charter should also serve as an executive overview of your project, one that any new executive can reference to evaluate it. A good project charter can help save you from unnecessary scrutiny or having your project shut down because some executive didn’t see the business value in it from their perspective.

Josh also states, “I have worked with several project managers who ran into funding issues because a particular director or executive who said they would fund a project from their budget didn’t come through. The project charter should clearly state who is responsible for funding, and they need to sign it, too!

A good charter should be clear and concise. It should contain information about the purpose of the project, the benefits and objectives, a measurable set of success criteria, the name of the project sponsor, the list of stakeholders, and the product description and deliverables. With this, the chartering process will be much shorter and the project manager and the team can move forward with the more important parts of the project.

Final Analysis

Implementing a good chartering process may cause resistance, especially from personnel who use their position to manipulate the leadership or for those who think that the chartering process they created for the organization is the best. However, everything is always open to improvement and to change. Opponents of the change may try to subvert your ideas for improvement but stick to it and walk the talk.

Write YOUR Own Powerful Project Charter

You see the value of a well crafted project charter. If you would like to see some samples and improve your own charter, consider the pmStudent Project Charter Course. Visit http://learn.pmstudent.com/the-project-charter-course and write even better project charters right away!

Author: Randy Tangco is a business-driven project management practitioner. He has been an advocate of the best practices of project management in both the agile and traditional domain. He has been in the IT business for many years and has handled positions in various capacity including system and application support and management, computer operations support management, infrastructure deployment and management, technical leadership, business support manager, and project manager while working with international banks in the Middle East. He continues to promote the use of project management outside of the IT industry.

He is a certified scrum master (CSM) and a certified project management professional (PMP) and currently working on his IPMA level C certification.

Scheduling as Premature Elaboration: You?re Doing It Wrong

Scheduling is what project management is all about, right?

Among the plethora of project management tools available, what aspect is most widely promoted?

Jumping right into MS Project or any other scheduling tool is a mistake.

Projects like this are built on very unstable footing, and it’s likely they will fall apart in some way.

It’s just not safe.

If you haven’t fully developed a good Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)/PBS, requirements, and Basis of Estimates (BOE) before you start scheduling (and subsequently estimating costs and setting a budget), you’ve done it wrong.

So please, don’t open up a scheduling tool the moment you start a new project.? For me, there is a general order of operations to acheive project planning which is built on a sturdy foundation.? I don’t care if it’s waterfall, agile, whatever.? There are pieces between steps that go back and forth a bit before moving forward, but in general:

  1. Why – (business case, charter)
  2. What – (charter, WBS, requirements, use cases/user stories)
  3. How/Who – (ConOps, Trade Studies, Design, Basis of Estimates)
  4. When – (schedule, prioritized backlog)
  5. Iterate – (progressive elaboration, sprint cycle)

[All wrapped inside a Project Management Plan/Approach, based on proven system engineering/industry practices,? and supported by risk and configuration management.]

Note that MS Project or other scheduling tools don’t enter the picture until Step #4.? I have never heard a convincing argument as to why anyone would think of scheduling anything until you had a good grasp on the foundational prerequisites I list in steps 1-3 above.

So what do you think?? Does my take on this topic match up with your own, or are you mad at me now because I’m talking about you?? Either way, please leave a comment and let’s discuss what you think.