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Who Needs a Stinking Charter?

17 Jul Who Needs a Stinking Charter?

You do if you are a project leader. I know that creating a project charter can be a little bit of a pain and it may seem tedious, but it really is the first step to a successful project. We discussed a basic structure for Kaizen events in a previous post titled “Kaizen is not Japanese for free lunch”. Periodically, I plan to revisit this topic and discuss various components of a successful Kaizen. Depending on the response we get, we may accelerate the discussion or drop it, so be sure to let us know what you think.

A project charter is more than just a summary document. Of course, it contains all the particulars about the project, and since the concept is so well documented, I won’t bore you with a detailed description. Rather, I will list some key components of a good charter (with a slant for Kaizen event planning) and then we can explore why we need them. A good charter should contain:

  1. Project summary including the problem statement, issue to be solved or improvement opportunity, dates and project and location.
  2. Organizational Metrics that will be impacted. Current state and expected results. This is critical to attain buy in.
  3. Team: include champions, sponsors, team leaders/co leaders, members and support peronell
  4. Cost and financial impact summary
  5. Current and Future state descriptions. Pictures,drawings, value stream maps and process maps should be used rather than lengthy/wordy descriptions if possible.
  6. Other items as needed.

A good charter serves several purposes. First, it ensures alignment with the sponsors and champions. A team leader is wise to use this document to ensure that all key stakeholders are in agreement of scope and expectations before the project begins. The school of hard knocks has taught me that the final report out is probably the worst place to discover that the champion’s expectations conflict with the team’s.

Charters also provide guard rails for the team and make sure that efforts are directed at the areas of highest impact. As a team leader, the charter is your main tool to keep your team on task. There are always many opportunities that arise and it is difficult to tell a team that the great idea needs to go to the parking lot. If it isn’t part of the scope and everyone has agreed to the charter, this task becomes much simpler.

Finally, developing a charter forces us to think through the project in detail and gives us an opportunity to plan the event in detail. While no amount of planning with keep the unexpected from happening, a good plan will certainly make dealing with the unexpected much simpler. Charters lead us through the planning, team selection and even project selection process. They help us tie the projects to the big picture and help ensure our success. I can think of no better insurance policy to protect us from project failure than that.

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