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  • Writer's pictureEva Jenisch

3 essentials for a successful project

When starting a project, most people want to dive right into finding a solution to the problem at hand and solving it. On one hand this is about getting rid of the pain that the problem is causing in the organization and on the other hand, people are eager to get active and move forward.

This is the moment to pause and think about what you actually want to do. Before you jump right into problem solving, consider starting with a project charter.

So, what is a project charter? I see it as a contract between the organization and the project leader outlining the What, the Why and the How of the project. This contract will then be used as a reference throughout the project.

The What

Firstly, you need to describe and understand which problem you are trying to solve. It is important that all stakeholders share a common understanding of what exactly the issue is. In this context, the scope is essential: which areas and processes will be included in the project, and which will be left out. You also need to identify other projects that might have overlap or dependencies.

The Why

Secondly, you need to be clear on why you want to do this project. This is akin to the business case for the project. As a starting point, you should measure where you stand today, such as the actual cost incurred by the problem you are trying to solve. You must also define the goals (measurable!) you want to achieve and the deliverables. These can be cost reduction goals, but also efficiency gains or quality improvements. The decisive factor is the added value for your customer - i.e., what your customer is willing to pay for.

The How

And finally, you define the delivery strategy - how the project goal can be achieved efficiently and effectively, based on the context and the chosen project methodology (e.g., waterfall or agile). Roles and responsibilities are defined and together with the governance structure provide clarity throughout the project on who makes decisions and who is responsible for which activities. A project plan helps to structure the work and to have a clear sequencing of activities, the frequency of project events and milestones set the rhythm of the project. Financial control and transparent communication are equally important. All this enables the project team to successfully achieve the project objectives within time, budget, and quality expectations.

Let the project roll

Personally, I would recommend to anyone whether at the start of a new initiative or even if it is already underway, to make sure, that a formal project charter is established and approved by the stakeholders. Once the project is up and running, there are invariably challenges: deadlines cannot be met, a proposed solution does not work, disputes between team members, ... always something unexpected.

The project manager and the sponsor need to manage these risks to keep the project on track. The Project Charter provides the necessary framework for this and is your license to run the project requesting other people’s time and resources. My experience is that projects with a well thought out and aligned project charter are more successful than projects where a project charter is missing.


Photo by Chang Duong on Unsplash

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