As a business leader, owner or entrepreneur, are you planning to review and change your business services or products?  If so, read on for top tips on how a project charter can help you plan your changes.

  • Do your business services or products require updating?
  • Is your business plan more than three months out of date?
  • What is the key problem you want to solve through changing something?

When should I use a project charter?

There are practical ways you may improve how you deal with change by using simple project management approaches and tools. When you set out to transform part of your services or products, people may display inertia, and seem uncertain of what to do. A Project Charter provides the vital first steps in the journey and helps people work as a team. It also provides a framework or outline for the desired change because it clearly describes the What, Why, When, Who and How of making change.

What are the benefits of using a project charter for change?

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” ― Dwight D.

Completing a Project Charter as a team exercise helps build rapport and sets a shared vision for change. When people are clear about what they are doing and why, they become more confident to get involved, and their initial negativity reduces.

What does a project charter cover?

The areas covered typically include the following:

  • Purpose & objectives

Identify what problem you want to solve. This may be a current issue or a potential situation you want to avoid.

Then think about the improved situation that you want to achieve, and record this as your objectives. You may not know exactly what the endpoint will look like however you will have an idea of the direction. As you progress through the change or transformation, the details will become clearer.

  • Background

Outline the core business, the number of people employed, and the number who will be involved in the change. Include any high level factors that may impact on plans. If you have a project sponsor, they may use this information to help decide whether to proceed.

  • Scope

Clearly describe what is included in the planned change and what isn’t included. For example you may be designing a standard skills matrix for people to self-assess against. However personal development plans that usually follow on from such self-assessment, will generally be management’s responsibility. Clearly defining the scope helps manage expectations and roles in the change.

  • Stakeholders

Use the Charter to list the key people or groups who will be involved in, or impacted by the proposed change.  For example, a business of around ten or more may need a business sponsor or funder, also a change project lead, and possibly a small  team. For all businesses, there are likely to be collaborators, customers and relatives with a vested interest. These may ebb and flow in relative importance throughout the duration of the change, and you will require a stakeholder management plan to effectively work with these people.

  • Costs and benefits

Work out the broad cost of the problem you want to solve. If you resolve this problem, the costs will be reversed and become the benefit. There is further detail on how to do this here.

Changing direction inevitably takes additional effort, time and resource compared to maintaining business as usual.  Increasingly there are new technologies to design and develop as part of the change solution which also have a cost. You should add these costs to overall problem cost.

  • Risks

Day to day work is not always predictable.  Read this link about Business uncertainty if you want to know more. Rapid advances in digital technology bring rising customer expectations. While many of the required IT changes are not ‘rocket science’, the process of working together to deliver such change often requires a new mindset. Think of the risks this brings to the change project in terms of timelines, shared objectives, and results.

  • Key milestones

To keep everyone working towards clear and shared goals, include key activities and timelines for completion on the change charter.  This will encourage you to develop an appropriate communication rhythm. These milestones may change slightly as you go through the change, however it’s far better to have something to change, rather than a blank canvas.

In summary

Above are some of the factors to consider as part of your change charter. There may be others, depending on the type and complexity of the change you are making. Developing a project charter isn’t an exact science and it should be changed as needed.

Remember, the most important aspect of a change charter is working collaboratively to design and agree it. This helps enormously to get buy-in to the change. With buy-in comes quality, pace and effective teamworking.

How we can help

If you want to know more about scoping and planning or how to develop a project charter, then please contact us here, phone us on 07824 660120, or email us at Alternatively you can ask questions or leave comments at the end of this article.

We can design and facilitate an interactive half-day workshop for you and your team. You will leave with an outline project charter and a clearer understanding of how to plan your business change.

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