Rethinking the Charter
Nontraditional Project Management,
Calculating Project Value,
Reflections on the PM Life,
PM Think About It,
Categories: Project Failure, Risk Management, Agile, Human Resources, Nontraditional Project Management, Portfolio Management, Calculating Project Value, Tools, Reflections on the PM Life, Documentation, Project Planning, Facilitation, PM Think About It, Project Delivery, Project Requirements, Translations, Roundtable, Strategy, Metrics, Stakeholder, Innovation, Change Management, Leadership, Lessons Learned, Program Management, Scheduling, Benefits Realization, Complexity, Education, Programs (PMO), Communication
Since I retired after 26 years in one company, I have had assignments in various PMOs in different industries. I’ve been in the energy sector, the insurance sector, credit card services, industrial/manufacturing, and now healthcare. Every industry has struggled with the project charter. What does baselining it mean? Does it ever get updated? Who should issue it? And the list goes on. And while PMOs in all these industries try to invent the perfect process – we are ignoring one important aspect.
The project charter, as defined by PMI, does not meet the needs of today’s business!
Before you call me a heretic and an incompetent – hear me out. The problem I have with the charter is it becomes a reformatting of existing information, bloated, and redundant – and it doesn’t provide the project team with the most important information it needs. Shouldn’t the charter give the team a definition of what success looks like?
I propose the charter should be extremely streamlined. After all, how many people, let along executives, will read a 14 page charter? Many charter templates contain information that is already in one artifact and will no doubt be included in another. I propose we throw away the bloated all-inclusive charter of today and replace it with a simple charter.
Project Organizational Wrapper
You need to have the organizational wrapper of project control structures. If the project pipeline has a defined Demand Process and there is a demand id, it should be in the charter. This should also be aligned to the business case information – what went into the approval, and other justifications. No need to repeat them in the charter – they already exist in a corporate database of record. If information is in two places – that doubles the risk of inconsistency, confusion, and delay.
If you have an integrated project management system (IPMS) that tracks project work in process – then that project id should be there. Projects assume titles and identify from the ideation phase through project initiation. That title, or name, should be included in the charter because that’s the lingo that has defined the initiative.
Should be results focused
Once the project is ready to kick off, the work initiative needs to be focused on the results. If your organization is mature enough to be doing Benefits Management Realization, the charter should map directly to the benefit register. The next section of the charter should be:
What does success look like?
Quite simply – what is the vision in reality? Knowing what success is far outweighs the value of several scope bullet points. The definition of success can be expressed in several ways including:
Critical success factors
The essential areas of activity that must be performed well if you are to achieve the mission, objectives or goals for your business or project.
What can we do in the future that we can’t do now?
How do we measure success?
Not calling for specific key performance indicators here, but should have an idea of how we will measure success. It also provides requirements for the product and what are the critical success factors.
If you are driven by a legal requirement or an industry standard (HIPPA or an ISO requirement comes to mind) than that should be identified. The charter must identify conformation to external factors.
What benefits are being realized?
Again, if you have a mature benefits realization process, then the entire benefits quantification/qualification should be in place and your project is delivering outcomes and capabilities to realize the defined benefits.
The charter must be able to identify all the organizations that are impacted by the initiative. After all, how did you get high level estimates for the business case if you didn’t have a means of identifying organizations involved? This RACI should then be driven to know which groups need to receive and approve the charter.
What time frame is expected for the organization to start to realize benefits? Let’s avoid the charade of bottom up estimates and defining the schedule after you have all requirements defined etc. We are driven by budget cycles and funding is only approved to last so long. This isn’t to say those things can’t and shouldn’t happen, but at a Charter level – the approval has a defined end time. This also helps define the scope.
I have purposely omitted several pieces of what is considered part of a charter. Not that I don’t think they are important, I do, but they belong in defined sections of the project plan. There is no need for budget as that should already be in the business case approval – and I don’t know if it directly contributes to the definition of the outcomes and capabilities. Scope is implied in what success looks like and the Critical Success Factors. If during requirements definition, a question is raised that doesn’t directly support the definition of success, than it is out of scope. Assumptions, risks, issues, and constraints are all important, but they live elsewhere. The charter should identify the future state, not dwell on the challenges of the present state. And the charter should be a onetime document that is not modified or have addendums. It initiates the work – other artifacts ebb and flow during the project life cycle.
In closing – the purpose of the charter is to authorize the project manager to start delivering on the project. It is not to cut and paste from all over to make an all-inclusive summary of all business intelligence that justified the project. I propose to make it a lean document focused on the outcomes and capabilities and the definition of success. Items that have a workflow/life cycle (risks, assumptions, issues, etc.) do not need to be in a charter, they are taken care of elsewhere. A lean, concise, and easy to read charter allows the team to focus on delivering within the success criteria.
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Calculating Project Value,
Reflections on the PM Life,
Earned Value Management,
Categories: Project Failure, Risk Management, Portfolio Management, Calculating Project Value, Reflections on the PM Life, Best Practices, Generational PM, Project Planning, Facilitation, Project Delivery, Roundtable, Mentoring, SoftSkills, Career Development, Stakeholder, Earned Value Management, Lessons Learned, Program Management, Benefits Realization, Complexity, Ethics, Talent Management, Teams, Education, Communication
Right after the Global Conference, I will be flying out to Vancouver to give presentations at ProjectWorld. One of my presentations is on Influence and Advising as a Project Manager. This is my closing slide.
As a project manager, we are frequently in a position of advisor or influencer. We need to understand our interactions have long term impact. Not only for our self, but also our organization. It's the feeling of value required in the trust relationship.
The last bullet is most important, there may sometime be the "drop the mic" moment where you win a heated discussion - but the odds are good you will still need to work with that person - so give them an opportunity to save face. That 15 seconds of satisfaction might be the prelude to months of resistance.
PMI knows how to put on a Congress event! The first Congress I attended (and presented at) was in 1995. I haven’t attended them all since then, but I’ve attended quite a few. At the 2015 congress, I was hanging around the PMI booth talking to my good friend Marjorie Anderson (PMI). She had a remarkable, brief and amazing insight. I can’t remember her exact words, but it was something like: “I love the energy of this group, I can feel it!”
It took a few hours to sink in – but she was right on the mark. All the attendees were happy, engaged, thrilled to meet fellow Project Managers, and impressed with the great show PMI always organizes. Why didn’t I realize this 20 years earlier?
While thinking about the “Marjorie hypothesis”, I started wandering the halls (when I should have been part of the “Ask the Expert” group). While Absent Without Leave, I realized just how right she was. There is TREMENDOUS energy in a group of thousands of Project Managers. You just need to witness and reflect on it for a few minutes. I believe this energy comes from the unity of purpose and direction. Everyone was trying to learn more about their craft and their joint passion – Project Management, in its many variations and styles.
There was a dazzling array of varied presentations being given, and most of the crowd was eager to get to the next one on their list. Just standing in line to get my badge scanned I could sense the anticipation, interest and of course – the energy.
Which brings up an interesting issue. Which sessions should you attend? After 20 or so years, I’ve developed two methods of choosing. Neither is scientific or probably even recommended. But there is an overwhelming selection of sessions – too many to attend.
My first method is to the session with the biggest crowd waiting to get in. Maybe I invented “crowd sourcing!” My thinking is that a hundred or so Project Managers combined are MUCH smarter than I am. So, like a fish in a school, I followed them.
My second method is to attend a session that I know little or nothing about. After all, I am at the congress to learn new techniques, concepts and “stuff.” So, by going to a session that I know next to nothing about helps expand my brain a bit. Sure, I have interests that I can’t avoid – risk, aerospace or academic projects, but going to a healthcare project session (not my ball of wax) helps expand my brain a bit and I often pick up a concept that would *never* have occurred to me otherwise.
ASK THE EXPERT
For the past few years, ProjectManagement.com has invited me to attend the Congress as a Subject Matter Expert. The idea is that people sign up to ask a question of an expert and expect to get an answer or at least a direction to go in. It’s always a great experience and lot of fun for both the person asking and the expert. To tell the truth, I enjoy these 1 on 1 sessions more than anything else – even the 2016 marching band and beer!
Of the many people I’ve talked to in my “Expert” role, there has been an Engineering Senior from a major American university who was the project lead of an electric car build and competition wanting to know about how to task his team members, to a PMO manager of a billion-dollar company about implementing risk management as unified PMO activity. One eager PMP wanted to know why SAFTEY or safety planning is not a concern in the PMBOK guide. (A good question!) With a group at breakfast ‘expert table’ we talked about how each of us has dealt with complex technical issues. These sessions were brief, enjoyable and I believe; helpful to the person asking for help.
And, just to confirm the “Marjorie hypothesis” each person I’ve talked to during “ask the Expert” was filled with energy. They WANTED to succeed, they WANTED to learn a better way, they were thrilled to talk to another PM who understood their issues.
The typical perception of a Project Manager is someone who sits in an office and plans all day or, a Dilbert-like character. We all know this is incorrect and nothing illustrates it more than attending a PMI Global Congress. I’d like for non-PMs to attend! I’d like the Project Manager’s bosses and higher-ups to attend. Let them feel the “Marjorie hypothesis.” It’s undeniable.
In a previous post, a person asked Michelle Stronach: "Is PMI Global Congress worth the money?" To which Michelle replied positively and constructively.
I am adding this infographic for congress participants and anyone questioning the value they get from PMI Global Congress. The value of PMI Global Congress for you is what you make of it during and mostly, after attending.
Take the following actions post congress and reap the best value from your congress participation.
The download link in point 4 is this: https://app.getresponse.com/site2/postpmicongress?u=Bn6WN&webforms_id=7741203