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Most projects will have a specific date or event at which the stakeholders will approve the Project Charter in order to authorize work to begin. Often this immediately followed by a kickoff meeting with the project team and stakeholders to ensure alignment on project goals and objectives.
Approval and Kickoff
Most projects will have a specific date or event at which the stakeholders will approve the Project Charter in order to authorize work to begin. Often this is immediately followed by a kickoff meeting with the project team and stakeholders to ensure alignment on project goals and objectives.
When to use
Projects can be approved in many different manners. Large projects are often approved as part of a strategic planning or annual budgeting process. During those meetings many Project Charters are reviewed and a subset is selected for approval. Smaller projects are more likely to be approved at staff meetings or business review meetings. Externally funded projects are often approved when the contract is awarded by the customer or funding agency. Regardless of how the project is approved, the project manager will normally call a Kickoff meeting at the start of detailed project planning to explain the elements of the project charter and ensure alignment with all key stakeholders.
The Project Charter approval process is driven by local practice and procedures. The only best practice is to do it! The project manager and project sponsor should have a clear point when the project manager has been authorized to begin work. At that point the project manager will acquire a project team (unless one has already been appointed) and initiate any project accounting that must be done with Finance or Purchasing so that the project can begin to spend money.
In many organizations, this authorization is part of a formal stage-gate or toll-gate process. The business leadership reviews and approves the Project Charter and the project is authorized to start work. However, in some organizations or for some category of projects, the authority to start is much more informal. The project manager will meet with the sponsor in a one-on-one meeting, or the Project Charter may be one of many items covered at a staff meeting. In fact, the Project Charter may not even be a formal document, it may just be an action item assigned from the meeting. If the approval is informal, I still recommend that you follow-up with a formal email or other document that provides the elements of the project charter with the date and authority for approval.
Regardless of how the approval is received, it is always a good idea for the project manager to conduct a kickoff meeting. This meeting is used to answer any questions about the project and to gain alignment among stakeholders on the project goals and objectives along with any assumptions or constraints. The attendance at this meeting should be the project sponsor, the project manager, the project management team and any other team members who have already been identified. In addition, the meeting will sometimes have customers, suppliers, operational and functional managers, along with any project management support. Basically it will be any of the key critical stakeholders that were identified during the stakeholder analysis.
This is an important meeting, especially if the project manager or some of the team members do not know each other. There is an old saying that, “You only get one chance to make a first impression.” This kickoff meeting is the first impression that many of the stakeholders will have for how this project will be managed and executed. It is a great time to clarify expectations, build team comradery, establish team ground rules for communication and decision-making, and start the planning process. During this meeting the context of the project should be clear: a customer need, a business improvement, a technology upgrade, or a regulatory requirement.
I often use the “W’s” as an outline for this meeting:
What: the intended project goal or objective.
Why: the reason the project is needed.
Who: the project stakeholders and team members.
When: the project start date and desired finish date.
Where: location of key project activities (if the team is not co-located)
How: assumptions and constraints around the options available for planning and executing the project.
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