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Topics: Construction, Healthcare
How many project managers on larger construction projects actually use a project charter?
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I have worked on many construction projects as the owner's representative and found very few construction project managers started a project using a project charter.
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I have encountered that some companies use other documents (typically a contract) as an informal project charter. In my opinion, companies with a solid project management experience and/or with a PMO shall use project charters during project initiation phase.
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From what I have experienced, construction project managers are considered to execute the project and that they have not much to do with project charters. It is; what I understand; because of the functional structure of organizations.
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I know this may be a shock to many - the term charter is not very common - as much as PMI like us to believe.

Also - forget the term - think about what is charter? What does it do? What is its purpose? Once we can answer these questions then we know that most projects have a "charter" although it could be under a 100 different name.

Before I go on - we need to define what do you mean by a construction project; you mean the phase specific to constructing a facility by a contractor --- or you mean a facility project that has a project life cycle including feasibility - requirement - basic design - engineering - construction - and commissioning?

Now - when it come to construction - I will be very surprised to find a construction project that start without a "charter"; unless someone is building a shack somewhere. For contractors; the contract award document maybe used in lieu of "charter". For owner, they might use other terms. Also contractors might not be much into the PMI world.
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1 reply by Patrick Dicey
May 17, 2016 9:55 AM
Patrick Dicey
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Mounir is right... I think it becomes a terminology issue. Project charter (or similar) will absolutely be required in an 'internal' project: such as IT system/upgrades for a business customer. For external customer-facing projects (such as construction), charter may be replaced by contracts, purchase orders, and statements of work.

I work in the commercial world and projects are fairly similar. I will supplement contracts/POs/SOWs with a 'Project Kickoff' presentation that contains and documents any unique items. Between the two I've covered all the requirements of a charter.

Every project is unique, and how you manage every project is unique. PMI allows this as long as your processes are documented in your Project Management Plan. Internal and external customer projects will likely always have a lot of differences between the two.
Network:155



May 17, 2016 9:04 AM
Replying to Mounir Ajam
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I know this may be a shock to many - the term charter is not very common - as much as PMI like us to believe.

Also - forget the term - think about what is charter? What does it do? What is its purpose? Once we can answer these questions then we know that most projects have a "charter" although it could be under a 100 different name.

Before I go on - we need to define what do you mean by a construction project; you mean the phase specific to constructing a facility by a contractor --- or you mean a facility project that has a project life cycle including feasibility - requirement - basic design - engineering - construction - and commissioning?

Now - when it come to construction - I will be very surprised to find a construction project that start without a "charter"; unless someone is building a shack somewhere. For contractors; the contract award document maybe used in lieu of "charter". For owner, they might use other terms. Also contractors might not be much into the PMI world.
Mounir is right... I think it becomes a terminology issue. Project charter (or similar) will absolutely be required in an 'internal' project: such as IT system/upgrades for a business customer. For external customer-facing projects (such as construction), charter may be replaced by contracts, purchase orders, and statements of work.

I work in the commercial world and projects are fairly similar. I will supplement contracts/POs/SOWs with a 'Project Kickoff' presentation that contains and documents any unique items. Between the two I've covered all the requirements of a charter.

Every project is unique, and how you manage every project is unique. PMI allows this as long as your processes are documented in your Project Management Plan. Internal and external customer projects will likely always have a lot of differences between the two.
Network:894



Agree with Mr. Mounir Ajam,
project charter is there, but with different names and set of many documents.
Network:1



Thank you everyone. When I studied for my PMP designation, the instructor told us that the project charter is imperative and, without it, you don't have a project. I have downloaded numerous samples of charters and can't make sense out of them for my particular healthcare design and construction project. I agree with most of you that a construction contract, or some other documents, can replace a charter.
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1 reply by Mounir Ajam
May 18, 2016 3:19 AM
Mounir Ajam
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Hi Mark

I am not sure how to say this without being direct - unfortunately many who lead PMP classes have limited PM experience if any. They might have worked on projects but either (1) in a technical role, (2) maybe responsible for some aspects but not full project, (3) worked only a phase and not full project (4) in one industry (typically IT) without exposure to others. So what your instructor was telling you probably borrowed from Rita's book because she jokingly used to say "No Charter - No Project"

However, as I said before, we need to understand intent and purpose and not be rigid to a book. Common names for charters are PID (Project Initiation Document); PAD (Project Authorization Document), Project Brief, Venture Brief, Project Manadate, and the list goes on. The key thing to know is the following:

Does the organization uses some kind of document (or email) to authorize a project or a phase of a project? That is a charter.

Now in real life - when you see a document called charter (like you described) --- you will find numerous variations. Some charter are 1 page, 1 sheet (which is best) or could be 10-page document which include a scope statement, schedule, and pm plan.

Unfortunately, we do not have uniform practices. Even among PMI followers
Network:1645



I have sometimes seen the term Project Definition Document used synonymously as a Charter
Network:1



Samuel
The term 'Project Definition Document' seems like a better way. It is more definitive. As an owner's representative, not many owners know what a charter is...and neither do many project managers!!
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2 replies by Mounir Ajam
May 18, 2016 3:19 AM
Mounir Ajam
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actually this is not a good term - when we see project definition this is usually a lengthy document - it is more of scope statement rather than a charter
May 18, 2016 3:21 AM
Mounir Ajam
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I am sure some owner's rep might not know what a charter is - but ask for the document that authorized the project - if non-exist, then a problem :-)
Network:1645



Good to know, Mark. I guess I will continue using the term where needed
Network:1



Since I am on a roll, let me ask just one more question. How many project managers use the Earned Value technique? Again, in my many, many, many years as a construction project manager, I don't recall other project managers using this method.
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1 reply by Mounir Ajam
May 18, 2016 3:24 AM
Mounir Ajam
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Hi Mark

I like these questions :-)

Again - any company with a decent maturity (even low) will use some form of project control and forecasting. They might not use the EVM terms.

Again - unless you are dealing with small companies (mom & pop kind of establishment) and in that case they are "going with the flow".

I have worked on projects in Oil & Gas and these are must - by owners and contractors. If contractors do not use some of these techniques then they will not last long unless they can have a lot of contingencies.
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