How to draft a project charter

Let’s use this analogy to illustrate how a project charter is put together.

Let’s say you are married and have a young family. You and your spouse live in a condominium that you own. It has two bedrooms, one master bedroom and another one for your three year old son. You are now pregnant and you expect to have another child, a girl, in another four months. You have discussed with your spouse that you need to move to a house where you will have more space to raise your growing family. You discussed many details and decided that the best way is have a house built in a new development suburban area that you have already checked out.

Now that you have made a decision to go ahead with this, you want to put it all on paper so that everyone is clear on what needs to be done and why. You want to make sure that everyone is on the same page.

You decide to put this into a document and call it your “project charter’.

Now let’s see. What are you going to put into this document?

Well you obviously need to say what needs to be done. So let’s go ahead and do that and write it down as follows:

We need a new house because our family is getting larger and we are outgrowing our condominium. 

We need to build a house of about 2000 square feet with 3 bedrooms. There must be a full bathroom for the master bedroom, another full bathroom to be shared by the two other bedrooms and then one powder room for when we have guests. We need a living and dining area, a kitchen of no less than 200 square feet, a garage for our two cars and a backyard for a garden. We also need a small front yard. We would like the house to be located between the intersections of Brittania Road and Terry Fox because that will be near schools there for the children. 

We are prepared to pay up to $400,000 dollars for the house. 

We will contract with Bob the builder to build our house and have it no later than the end of May of next year i.e. within 12 months so that we can move during the summer. Bob will take care of hiring sub-contractors to do the work. 

Note: the location is in the process of being rezoned since it is an old commercial area that will be converted to a residential area. 

The rezoning process usually takes a few months. However, if some of the current residents in the area object to the rezoning, things could get delayed.

Let’s see now what you have done so far:

–          you described the high level requirements of the project: the size of the house, location etc. This is called the Statement of Work (SOW)

–          you mentioned the “need”, the underlying justification for the project: you need more space to accommodate your growing family

–          you mentioned who will be doing the job: Bob the builder. This is the same as assigning the project manager

–          you mentioned sub-contractors: these are vendors or functional organizations who would be involved in doing the work

–          you put in a summary “milestone” by stating that you need the house by a certain time

–          you mentioned “stakeholder influences” by stating that your children need to be near schools and that influences the decision regarding location. Stakeholders are anyone and everyone who would be impacted by the project

–          you mentioned how much you are willing to pay. That is the project budget

–          you mentioned some assumptions: rezoning takes a few months

–          you mentioned risks: problems with rezoning could surface

–          you stated a constraint: you want to move in summer


Everyone is now clear on what is required, what the current situation is and there is a decision to proceed.

Congratulations, you have just completed your first project charter.

Let’s recap:

A project charter is a document that has the following:

Official Project Title What it really means
 Requirements What do we need to do
 Justification Why we are doing it
 Project Manager Who will be managing the project
 Summary Milestones Roughly when do we need to get it done
 Stakeholder Influences Who might be affected by the project and how
 Organizational Participation What groups would be involved in doing the work
 Assumptions What do we think will happen or be available that will affect the work
 Risks What do we think might go wrong
 Constraints What things can limit our flexibility in terms of time, money, quality etc
 Budget How much are we willing to pay


Hope you found this article useful. Send me a comment and let me know what you think.

Thanks for reading.


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