Posted by: kerrywills | September 23, 2011

Where to start?

I mentor a few PMs and the other day one asked me about a project they had been assigned and asked me where to start. I had to think about this a little bit but then landed on some basic starting points.

This is what I recommended to them…

1. Create a Charter

A charter is a good way to define the boundaries of the project. The charter should include the background and history, the mission and objectives, the approach to run the project, the key team members and their roles, the communication plan and other key project approaches (issue management, escalation, change management, etc).

Spending the time creating the charter will help you to think through these key components and then provide a clear direction for the team and stakeholders.

2. Create the Project Deliverables

Once the charter has laid out the high level scope, next are the project plan,  resource plan and budget. The plan should be created by facilitating from the team members the specific deliverables needed to meet the objectives and then the specific activities to create the deliverables. The resource plan and estimate should align to these activities based on who is needed, for how long and what their costs are.

To accompany the plans, the project should have an action item log, risk log, issue log (I keep all three in the same place) and a central team site to store project documents.

3. Create a Roadmap

Lastly once the project plan has been created it will show the key capabilities and the dependencies between them. Therefore a roadmap should be easy to develop which is a visual representation of the capabilities and their order. This is very useful in managing expectations of delivery and capabilities.

This is just my short list so please feel free to comment on additional items. Obviously there are the logistical items like team meetings, kickoffs and stakeholder sessions but I would propose those come after these key planning documents.


  1. Another biggie for me is the stakeholder list. For without it, how do you know you’ve truly identified the correct scope. The missing stakeholders will wander in later, once you think you’re done, and plant them firmly in your project’s heart. (get it? stake holder?)


  2. A stakeholder roster is pretty important when kicking off a project as well. That way, you can be sure you know all of the people who will want to have some say in what defines the project’s goals. Otherwise, when you think you’re nearly done, these hidden stakeholders will emerge and plunge them into the heart of your project (get it? “Stake” holder? 😉

    – Steve

  3. Establishing communications could be one addition item – know who needs to be involved what type of communication people expect how often what method etc.

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