Creating the Playbook (Project Charter)

Every great team needs a playbook. In a football game, there are eleven people with different jobs and specialties all trying to achieve a common goal. The higher the level of play, the more precise the play needs to be. For example:

  • Pee Wee Football (thirteen and under): There really isn't much of a playbook. In the younger children, you just hope they know which direction to run!

  • High School: The playbooks become more sophisticated. Based on the school, it could get extremely sophisticated.

  • College: In college, very few freshman get a chance to play. The playbooks are more sophisticated, and every person has a specific role. Timing becomes an important element in order to catch the other team by surprise.

  • Pro: At the pro level, if you are one step off from where you are supposed to be, disaster could strike. If a wide receiver runs the wrong route, the other team will get an interception.

In the progression above, the teams have to be more and more sophisticated and their roles become more and more important. This is true of the project world as well. If you have a project that has a loose budget or time frame, the playbook doesn't have to be so sophisticated. However, if you have a large project team with a regulated due date, the playbook has to be tight.

Why Is the Charter Important?

A project charter formally recognizes the existence of the project. It comes in many sizes with several elements.

To succeed as a project manager, it is important to establish a project charter. If you are given the project from the beginning or you are taking one over from someone else, create one. It will help establish the ground rules and start the communication between you and your sponsor in the right direction.

Charters can take many forms, but at a minimum it should contain a scope statement and target dates and cost, and establish the authority of the project manager. Without this document, it could be very difficult to get any decision made or run a successful project.

Using the Charter

You may have heard of the term “scope creep.” This term means that the scope of the project continues to grow or new items are introduced. Having a proper project charter will allow you to determine whether the requested item is in scope or if it requires a change request.

Why does it matter if a sponsor wants to add scope?

Adding scope is perfectly acceptable in any project. However, this should also add time or cost. In many cases, without a scope change, scope creep increases the work but does not allow an increase in time or cost. Therefore, the sponsor will assume that they will get all functionality in the agreed-upon time and at the agreed cost.

It is important to understand the art of negotiation when it comes to additional scope. For the most part, you do not want to tell your sponsor no. It is much better to say, “Absolutely! It will add two weeks and $10,000 to the project.” Then your sponsor can approve it or not. If you don't phrase it that way, the sponsor will believe that they can get the new requirements at the original cost.

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  4. Creating the Playbook (Project Charter)
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