The Project Charter: Justify My Project!

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting Inc., an Ontario, Canada-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at andy.jordan@roffensian.com. Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

It scares me how many project managers believe that projects start with the planning. It scares me even more that their employers often agree. I used to think that the issue was simply that project managers weren’t involved in projects early enough--that they weren’t assigned to the project until planning was scheduled to start. Historically this was often seen as the time when project management started, but for many years there has been recognition that the project starts earlier than that during the justification (or initiation, or whatever your organization uses) phase of the initiative, and that the project manager needs to be a part of that process.

And yet project managers still often feel that projects start with planning!

Without the justify phase, the project’s a gamble
Starting a project does not involve a single decision to approve it followed by the immediate start of planning. Projects should go through a number of different approvals, and that makes up much of the Justify phase of the project. Initially, a project will be approved as part of an annual planning exercise and then allowed to move forward to the next stage. At this point the estimates of benefits and costs are very high level--generally just high-level planning estimates that are based on a significant number of assumptions and should be assumed to be accurate only in …

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