Project Charters Are The New Treasure Map

Apr 21, 2017


I guess you could say I’ve always been infatuated with treasure hunting. Before it was developed into a bustling neighborhood, my childhood home was built on land that was once a farm. Our backyard was full of trees that were old and strong—the perfect platform for a tree house. Sitting up in the trees with the neighborhood kids, we always imagined that there was a long-lost treasure hidden deep in the woods. If only we had the treasure map to find it!

As a treasure hunter, your job is to navigate the map, searching for the next clue. Let me steal a scene from National Treasure—Nicolas Cage’s character, Ben, is at his father’s house with Diane Kruger’s character, Abigail. As they are rubbing lemon juice and heating the back of the Declaration of Independence, a bunch of codes appear, which help point them in the direction of an incredible treasure. But the path to riches is filled with rudimentary death traps, pitfalls, and other hidden troubles.

As a Project Manager, you’re constantly thinking of the best way for the team to successfully get from the start of a project to the end. Just like a treasure hunter, it helps to have your own kind of treasure map. In the business world, we call this a project charter. We utilize it like a map of what we’re going to accomplish, who’s going to be involved, and what the timing should be to complete it. Just like Ben and Abigail’s map in National Treasure, a project charter can provide the high-level details, but those pitfalls along the way (or the how to complete a task within the project) are things that sometimes need to be solved for on the fly. It involves thinking on your feet to leverage the project charter (map) and what the situation may call for, to be able to get to your end goal successfully.

A typical project charter will contain the following:

  • Project Sponsor – the person that is sponsoring the work that you’re doing
  • Project Description – a description of the project at a very high level
  • Business Case – why this project is important
  • Goals/Success Criteria – how to know if the completed project was successful
  • Deliverables – the final outputs that are anticipated
  • Resource Needs – the internal/external resources that are required
  • Timeline – anticipated timing of the steps
  • Assumptions – anything assumed at the start of the project
  • Risks – any known risks that need to be called out at the start of a project

By taking some time at the start of a project to identify, document, and review the items above with the key players involved, your projects will have a better chance of success. It can show you your own path to riches—a completed project. You just need to put on your treasure hunter hat to make it a reality!

Here’s a free project charter template to help you get started. Good luck!