PROJECT PLANNING – Managerial Challenges (Part 2)

Project Initiation

This post is the second in a series of discussions regarding managerial challenges in current project management situations.  In this series, we 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.

In a recent consulting assignment, M&M encountered a highly respected client using a phrase that is something like “Building the right project in the right manner.”  While this is paraphrased, the notion is clear.  But, what could they mean “Building the right project…?”  Why would an organization devote time and investment money to building the wrong project?  The answer typically resides in the Project Initiation process.  Inadequate attention and alignment regarding such items as the project objectives and scope of work [also known as the Project Scope Statement] can lead to a misguided start (and sadly sometimes, finish) of the wrong project.  Project Initiation is the essential foundation.

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

  • Project Management Institute [PMI] 
  • Construction Industry Institute [CII] 
  • The Chartered Institute of Building [CIOB] ]
  • Association for Advancement of Cost Engineering International [AACE]
  • Many colleges, universities, community colleges, trade schools and other educational organizations.

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).  Further, we will rely on PMI’s The Standard for Program Management.

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 Statement PMBOK® 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.


The experience of McLaughlin and McLaughlin includes the initiation of 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.

In one such example, M&M was called upon to provide program management services in a large and complex ($400 million USD) worldwide program.  A project facility had been identified and permitting / engineering of the facility was to begin.  Some investigation into the basis for the program revealed that the facility definition lacked a robust business case justification.  Requirements had not been developed based on analyses and related industry (and company) trends.  Several months later, a solid basis for the facility requirements were developed and the program proceeded.  The Project Initiation was complete and the program had the requisite basis.

Let us all attempt to approach the practice or challenge of project management with the key 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…

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