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The Art of Project Management: Team Chartering for Project Success
Jagdish Salgaonkar, PMP, on making client expectations the central theme of managing a project and measuring success
“Chartering is a universal tool which transcends countries, cultures, attitudes, and work approaches. Since chartering is a people-focused tool that requires no computers, it is a very human way to understand, relate, and work together.”

A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) defines project management as “the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet project objectives”. To most people, this implies that project management is a formulaic process, much like engineering, and managers who practice these methods should expect positive results. However, in my 30 years of practicing project and program management in the public infrastructure arena, I’ve learned that applying the best tools, systems, and processes does not guarantee project success; being a good engineer does not necessarily make a good project manager. And while an engineering background helps in understanding a project, managing projects takes special talent. Projects are planned, designed, and constructed by people, and managing people is an art not a science. To deliver successful projects, we must understand and learn the art of project management. This is true for any field, whether it is manufacturing, information technology, retail, or engineering.

The art of project management goes beyond traditional quantifiable success measures. Rather than focusing on budget and schedule, it focuses on ensuring that the clients’ expectations, both tangible and intangible, are met. To achieve this requires an understanding of client needs and the ability to manage these needs, throughout the lifecycle of the project. Since projects are team efforts, it is absolutely essential to build a team in which each member understands his or her role and responsibility, and is focused on delivering the project goals.

Team chartering is conducted at the very beginning of the project. At the chartering session, the client expectations and team performance are discussed and understood. Some practitioners of project management believe that it is the single most important activity in project management. Chartering guides a project team, including the client/customer, through the process of defining itself—its purpose, critical success factors, goals, roles and responsibilities, operating guidelines, interpersonal behaviors, and other elements that give a team the clarity of purpose essential for high-quality performance. A tangible product of this process is a written document that is endorsed by all the participants of the chartering session. This differs from a conventional project kickoff which tends to focus on one-way communication of the “what is”, such as milestones, deliverables, and schedules. Chartering, on the other hand, uses two-way communication to engage team members and other participants to define the “how is” of the project, such as responsibilities and operating guidelines. It should include a significant amount of twoway discussion and dialogue between the different parties in the project.

To better understand the purpose of chartering, it is important to understand the definition of a team. Some of the key attributes of a team are:

Interdependence is where the team members must need each other to perform their own work successfully. The results of their individual work must be integrated for the team goal to be achieved.

There are a number of benefits to conducting a team chartering session. These benefits include:

All parties who will play a direct role in executing the essential work of the project should be involved in the chartering. These include:

The number of participants at a chartering session can range from 2 to 50. In general, a session of less than 20 participants is recommended. When the number exceeds 20, the sessions become difficult to manage. Additionally, a chartering session should not consist of a series of oneway presentations. It should include a significant amount of two-way discussion and dialogue between the different parties in the project. A trained external facilitator is usually preferred to conduct the chartering session. The trained facilitator keeps the chartering focused and is able to discuss project issues which sometimes can be difficult to discuss in front of the client and stakeholders.

For large projects, if the potential make-up of the session seems likely to exceed 20, another approach is to have several sessions instead of one session (i.e. to handle the chartering in phases). As an example, the first chartering session could have the core project team, the primary client, and key stakeholders. The second could be for the extended project team and the rest of the clients and other stakeholders. The third could be with the project team and members of the contractor’s teams. Each session builds on the work from the previous sessions and gets more detailed.

The chartering process includes five steps:

  1. Defining the vision: The vision for a successful project, as well as understanding of the purpose and scope

  2. Clarifying team purpose: Who is on the team and for what purpose, and the process for measuring success should be determined

  3. Defining responsibilities: The boundaries of individual responsibilities, the interfaces between individuals, and team operating guidelines should be decided

  4. Developing team operating guidelines: Lines of communication between team members, and how they interact internally and externally should be developed

  5. Developing interpersonal behaviour guidelines: Guiding principles and core values for the team, as well as the protocol for resolving interpersonal conflicts, will be developed

The final step in the chartering process is to create the charter document. It is a written summary of the formal chartering sessions and should include:

Charter documents should be formally endorsed and shared with all individuals and groups with whom the project team has primary interface and communications. The charter must be renewed on a regular basis as teams change and goals are revised.

Chartering is a universal tool which transcends countries, cultures, attitudes, and work approaches. Since chartering is a people-focused tool that requires no computers, it is a very human way to understand, relate, and work together. It is a useful tool that allows the project manager to artfully manage the diverse people involved in any large and complex project. In today’s global economy, where project managers are expected to work in diverse settings, creating strong teams through chartering further enhances the possibility of delivering a successful project.

((Mr. Jagdish Salgaonkar is Asia regional managing director, major projects, for AECOM, a global, publicly traded engineering and construction company. Mr. Salgaonkar has 31 years of experience in all facets of planning, engineering, construction, financing, and management of public infrastructure capital programs. He is a certified PMP®, PE (Registered Professional Civil Engineer in California, USA), and BCEE (Board Certified Environmental Engineer, American Academy of Environmental Engineers.)
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