Project Charter 101: Crafting Success for Learning Programs

Delaney Caulfield

What is a project charter?

Have you ever wanted to embark on an adventure, but became overwhelmed with all the options and possibilities? Or have you ever wished there was someone or something to set the terms of your trip - length, destination, budget, schedule - all the details you'd rather someone else hash out?

Similar to a travel agent who crafts an itinerary based off of your goals and means, a project charter is  your grand planning document when setting out to implement a competency-based learning program.

The project charter guides the competency-based learning program implementation process. It clearly defines how a project will be developed, the objectives, scope and boundaries, as well as the budget and schedule. The project charter keeps your project organized and breaks down the roles and responsibilities of every individual involved in supporting the project - from team members and supervisors to stakeholders.

As an integral element to the implementation of your program, it's essential to take plenty of time to thoughtfully hatch the project charter when you first begin your project. You can start with an initial draft before translating it into a formal, properly formatted document; keep in mind that the project charter will be with you throughout the program's implementation life cycle.

The project charter is the core of what makes a competency-based learning program implementation successful. This document outlines the organizational structure of the project, stipulates specific deadlines for objectives and lists who will be responsible for executing those objectives. It also supports any strategy to implement a competency-based learning program.

Why is a project charter necessary?

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A project charter is an important document for several reasons, chief among them is that it sets the stage for how the competency-based learning program will be implemented.

The project charter is needed to:

  • Explain what is happening with the project from its outset
  • Outline communication methods for all team members
  • Allow the project manager to carry out their specific responsibilities
  • Reduce the likelihood that the project's size and budget will grow beyond its initial scope
  • Act as a reference point for all parties
  • Help speed up the approval process of the competency-based learning program implementation
  • Assist the members of the team in carrying out their duties

The project charter will detail the specific goals or objectives of the competency-based learning program and how they will be achieved by the team members implementing the program. It answers the who, what, when, why and how of implementing a competency-based learning program.

The project charter is also important because it:  

  • Assists an organization in increasing revenue as a marketing and sales tool
  • Defines specific terminology and language inherent to the project being proposed
  • Spells out what is important and what is less important to the project
  • Acts as a negotiation tool between different parties
  • Stands as a communication resource
  • Makes clear what success will look like and empowers the project manager

Who needs a project charter?

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The project charter is typically developed by the competency-based learning program's project manager, stakeholders and other organizational leadership members at the beginning of the implementation process.

For stakeholders specifically, a well-defined project charter can make it easier to get authorization, have the program rolled out, and begin developing target competencies. Once those competencies are approved, stakeholders can do their jobs more effectively and efficiently.

As the project charter lays out all team members' duties and responsibilities, it is an essential document for everyone involved to guide the success of the project.

This is the first article in a three-part series covering Chapter 4 of our Skilling Up textbook. To access other articles in this series, please navigate below.

Article 2 - Coming soon

Article 3 - Coming soon

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Delaney Caulfield

Delaney graduated from McMaster University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Cultural Studies. After working in an assortment of industries, she spent nearly a decade sharpening her writing and editing skills in the fast-paced field of journalism. Now she works as an Instructional Designer with BaseCorp where she enjoys flexing her passion for learning and creativity.