Published here November 2020


Musings Index

How to Write an Effective PM Charter

Looking back over the last 30 years, it is interesting to track how project management has changed over time. Back when the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) was created, the source of that knowledge was largely based on the experiences of large organizations involved in the Engineer-Procure-Construct (EPC) realm of major and/or significant infrastructure projects worldwide. These organizations typically developed large policy and procedures manuals for the management and control of their enterprise efforts.

However, their collective mandate was to get the work designed and constructed under contract between contractor and project owner, usually some level of government or large property and industrial process owner. As such, the responsibility for conducting any sort of business analysis, effectively developing a Business Case, or similar, preceded the "real" project. All the necessary policy, procedures and performance requirements, including the necessary process of establishing changes to the work, were set out in the formal contract, or in an Appendix thereto.

Now we tend to see projects, or at least project management, very differently. Today a "project" spans from the very time an opportunity for some sort of change first presents itself to the successful first use of the product or other outcome. Moreover, this overall endeavor now includes the responsibilities and efforts of more than one party (e.g., owner, consultants and contractors, all acting together to produce a result). Of course, each of these parties may consider their particular piece of the pie as "their project", but "The (real) Project" belongs to the owner, or so it should be as depicted in any serious project management teachings.

So now we must learn all about front-end stuff like a Business Case and/or Project Charter. These are the documents that tell us what we intend to do, why, how, when, etc., and the estimated cost. Either document may include some authority given to someone to actually carry out the work involved and spend money in the process. Interestingly, (or rather "Sadly" ...) you will not find such advice amongst my Issacons, but one of the best sources is a paper written by Robert Youker back in 2008, see this page: that describes "Document #3: Typical Elements in a Project Charter". It is also worth looking up definitions of "Business Case" in my Glossary at

More recently, Molly Crockett has written to remind us of her take on what a Project Management Charter should look like these days. See below for what she has to say.

How to Write an Effective PM Charter
By Molly Crockett

Anyone working in project management should know the value of a well-written project charter in providing the foundation for an efficient and successful process. This can be a complicated procedure if you are unsure of exactly how to go about it, so take a look at the guide below.

What is a project charter?
In short, a project charter — also known as a project management charter, a project statement, or a project definition report — is a form of documented authorization for a project, which includes the scope, objectives, and people involved and outlines the roles and responsibilities that each party fulfills.

What purpose does it serve/why is it so important?
A project charter should serve to authorize the project, as well as acting as a contract among participants. It is also a point-of-reference throughout the lifetime of the project and is the main source for any information or details needed for the project at any point.

What does it need to include?
Your project charter should be thorough yet concise. This means deciding what information is necessary and most beneficial to include. It needs to be clear and specific in every section, in order for the reader to fully understand the goal of the project and what it entails. These are some of the core sections:

  • Project statement/specification, objective, purpose — consider presenting a business case as the main aspect of the charter, explaining the details of the project, including what it will entail, what it aims to achieve, and how to reach this goal.
  • Scope/Risks — what potential risks or constraints are involved in the project and how will you manage them?
  • Major deliverables — what is the result of the project? How will you measure success?
  • Budget — detail the costs of the project and the sources for funding.
  • Schedule/Timeframe — illustrate the milestones of the project and set clear start and end dates.
  • Team roles and responsibilities and organization — include everyone working on the project and what their roles and responsibilities will be.

In addition to this, you will need to sort through the information to determine what should be included in the charter document itself and which details need to be written up in separate documents and only referenced in the appendix of the main charter. As Rosemary Chen, a project manager at Bestaustralianwriters and Academized, says: "This may include, but is not limited to, a detailed list of deliverables, a visual illustration of your timeline, and your communication plan."

Steps and tips for writing a project charter

  1. Make it visual with images and other design elements to make it easier to digest upon initial reading and easier to reference at a later date. Improve overall readability by working on the headers and how you divide sections and convert some information into visual format, such as your timeline for the project.
  2. Keep it collaborative — while you are in the process of developing your project management charter, make sure you are working on a platform, which allows multiple people to contribute, such as Google Drive. This allows involved parties to ensure that their voice and opinions are not only heard but incorporated into the project, before the charter is presented to other potential stakeholders.
  3. Shane Ritchey, a business writer at Stateofwriting and Studydemic, explains: "The style and presentation of a project charter ultimately comes down to the nature of the project itself, and the format should therefore adapt to best serve the purpose/objective of the proposed project."

Make sure to gather information from each involved party, including team members, sponsors, clients, project managers, and stakeholders, to ensure the charter is comprehensive and representative of the entire team.

There are plenty of templates available online for you to take advantage of, as well as detailed instructions for how to fully format and write your own. However you choose to go about it, writing an effective charter for your project is vital in gaining approval from stakeholders and clearly outlining the details of your proposal.

Molly Crockett

Molly Crockett is a successful marketing writer for Oxessays and Bigassignments where she shares her unique lifestyle tips and personal development advice with her audience. Molly may be reached at:

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