This post is the second in a series of discussions regarding current challenges being encountered in today’s project management.  More specifically, we have titled the series PROJECT MANAGEMENT CHALLENGES, since we intend to focus heavily on the managerial aspects of program / project management.  This post addresses the starting point or initiation of the project.  This is a crucial challenge.

Authoritative information and guidance regarding project management comes from many sources.  A few that may be obvious include:

In order to frame and organize this topic, we will use the PMI Project Management Processes for a Project as presented in A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide).

Many discussion groups and forums can be helpful.  These include AACE, PMI, LinkedIn and others.


PMBOK® Guide defines five process groups:

  1. Initiating Process Group
  2. Planning Process Group
  3. Executing Process Group
  4. Monitoring and Controlling Process Group
  5. Closing Process Group.

Our discussion will be organized along the structure of these process groups.  Hence, the first discussion will focus on the Initiating Process Group.

Sources that are used in this post are:

The initiation process (getting started formally) requires two processes and deliverables/outputs (see PMBOK® and Kerzner):

  1. Project Charter
  2. Preliminary Project Scope Statement.

Project CharterPMBOK® presents a description of purpose of the project charter as follows:

“The project charter is the document that formally authorizes a project.  The project charter provides the project manager with the authority to apply organizational resources to project activities.  A project manager is identified and assigned as early in the project as is feasible.  The project manager should always be assigned prior to the start of planning, and preferably while the project charter is being developed.”

Kerzner elaborates on the charter content, which he indicates should include:

  • “Identification of the project manager and his/her authority to apply resources to the project”
  • “The business purpose that the project was undertaken to address, including all assumptions and constraints”
  • “Summary of the conditions defining the project”
  • “Description of the project”
  • “Objectives and constraints on the project”
  • “Project scope (inclusions and exclusions)”
  • “Key stakeholders and their roles”
  • “Risks”
  • “Involvement by certain stakeholders.”

Preliminary Project Scope StatementPMBOK® provides guidance regarding this process and deliverable/work product:

“The project scope statement is the definition of the project – what needs to be accomplished.  The Develop Project Scope Statement process addresses and documents the characteristics and boundaries of the project and its associated products and services, as well as the methods of acceptance and scope control.  A project scope statement includes:”

  • “Project and product objectives”
  • “Product or service requirements and characteristics”
  • “Product acceptance criteria”
  • “Project boundaries”
  • “Project requirements and deliverables”
  • “Project constraints”
  • “Project assumptions”
  • “Initial project organization”
  • “Initial defined risks”
  • “Schedule milestones”
  • “Initial WBS”
  • “Order of magnitude cost estimate”
  • “Project configuration management requirements”
  • “Approval requirements.”

That said and the generic structure outlined, we move to some of the challenges that practitioners cite as troublesome and/or problematic.

One source of identification of challenges is industry discussions.  LinkedIn  hosts Groups with widespread and diverse interests.  One such Group is Project Management Link – (membership required for access).

As previously posted, within this Group, there has been a very active discussion regarding this topic.  The discussion was initiated by Trevor K. Nelson, PMP, IPMA-C,  on January 15, 2010, and has 1,700+ comments.  Here is the discussion question.

“What is the Single Biggest Problem Facing Project Management?”

As stated earlier, we will use some of the 1,700+ comments as points of departure for comments and discussion in this series.

A very descriptive and well targeted observation comes from Joseph Fernandez:

“The single biggest problem with project management is the inability to align project delivery with business strategy. Project managers think their job is to manage a project within the known constraints – time, cost, scope, risk and to manage the project within the framework of project management methodologies. As a project manager, you need to have the ability to adapt to situations and align the project to strategic objectives while constantly reviewing if the project clearly meets business and strategic objective.”

A significant focus comment comes from Jennifer Pardee

“What is the single biggest issue facing project management?
To keep my comment from being too ambiguous I would say focus on the primary goals, budget, and time line of the project can never happen too much and will often keep those issues that can pop up to seem so important in perspective.”

Another comment is from Lew Cadkin

“In my experience, the biggest problem is not setting expectations and communicating clearly to sponsorship at the front end of the project. Since every project is, in some sense, unique, I always scheduled the first week of projects dedicated to discovery.


Another comment is from Jim Devine


While I agree with your point regarding the outcome of projects, I would say that change is initiated higher up the in the requirement cycle and begins with the “business issue”. A business issue once identified calls for a “business solution” it is here that change is initiated and all potential for success (or failure) lies.

I tend to regard this as the “Envisioning Layer” where executive leadership is asked or is asking for a solution to be implemented. This is the point where project planning expertise and “artistry” should be applied but in most cases is not considered until further on in the process. I believe this will change as more of the executive leadership comes from those with background and exposure to project management methods and skills. Much like many CIO’s now come from a background in the business application of technology not finance.



The experience of McLaughlin and McLaughlin includes the initiation of several large and complex projects.  Within these projects, M&M has found that time and patience applied during the project initiation (Project Charter and Preliminary Project Scope Statement processes and documentation) is essential and invaluable relevant to project success potential.  Further, M&M experience is that lack of robust Project Initiation can seriously degrade the project success potential.  In this regard, the old saying about building your house on a solid foundation applies.

Good luck and let us all attempt to approach the practice or managerial challenge of project management with all knowledge, tools and lessons learned that are available.  Setting a solid foundation in the issues as well as the process is essential and has long term (project duration) benefits.  Happy reading and good luck in your project management challenges and endeavors…



It is important to note that McLaughlin and McLaughlin [M&M] is not a law firm and is not intending to provide legal advice.  M&M is a consulting firm providing (among other services) non-legal expertise in dispute resolution and litigation support.  The Resource Center is for the convenience of blog visitors and M&M does not offer this for commercial purposes.  For further information on M&M services, please see