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PMP Rapid Review: Initiating the Project

Task 1.6: Obtain approval for the project charter from the sponsor and customer (if required), in order to formalize the authority assigned to the project manager and gain commitment and acceptance for the project.

This task builds on the work completed by the previous tasks and seeks to gain official approval for the project charter from the relevant stakeholders. Approval from the project sponsor is essential, and if there are internal or external customers, their approval is also required. Approving the project charter formally authorizes the project to proceed.

Exam need to know...

  • Project charter approval

    For example: What must occur in order to commence detailed planning and execution work on a project?

  • Project managers authority

    For example: How does a project manager ensure they have the ability to make decisions to keep the project moving along?

Project charter approval

After gathering all the information that is known about the project at the initiating stage of the project and including it in the project charter, the next step is to get formal approval from the relevant stakeholders for the project charter. Internally, this should be done by the project sponsor on behalf of the performing organization. The customer might also approve the project charter. Approval for the project charter should be done formally and in writing, so that there is a clear record of the commitment given to the project. A project manager should not proceed on a project until formal approval has been given.

True or false? Project charter approval can be represented as a milestone in the project schedule.

Answer: True. Whether the project charter is approved can be displayed as a milestone in the project schedule and represent a stop/go point in the project.

Project manager authority

In addition to the information about the scope, milestones, deliverables, a high-level risks, assumptions, and constraints about the project, the project charter should identify the project manager and also clearly state the level of authority that project manager has. Ideally, the project manager has high levels of responsibility and authority, often documented as delegated authority levels in relation to ability to approve changes and control budget and resources on a project.

True or false? A project manager can have either high levels of both responsibility and authority, or low levels of both responsibility and authority. What is important is that they are equal.

Answer: False. A project manager has both high levels of responsibility and authority, which is documented in the project charter.

There are a number of other roles in the project such as project coordinator and project expeditor, which both have lower but always equal levels of responsibility and authority.

The biggest challenge to a project manager’s authority generally comes from the type of organizational structure in which the project is being completed. Most organizations are arranged as functional structures, and it is the functional manager who has the most power and authority over resources in the organization. In this case, the project manager has little or no authority. In a matrix organization, the project manager uses resources from across the different functional areas of the organization. If it is a strong matrix, the project manager has been given more power and authority than the functional manager over resources. If it is a weak matrix, the functional manger has more power and authority over resources than the project manager. In a balanced matrix, they both have equal amounts of power.

Only in a projectized organizational structure, in which the company is organized along the projects it undertakes, does the project manager have full power and authority.

Can you answer these questions?

You can find the answers to these questions at the end of this chapter.

  1. Who should take responsibility for getting approval of the project charter?
  2. What level of responsibility and authority should a project manager have?
  3. In a weak matrix organization, who has the most power: the functional manager or the project manager?
  4. At what point in the project lifecycle should the project manager be identified?
  5. If you are a project manager in an organization, are utilizing staff from several different functional areas, and you are continually having to ask each of the functional managers to use staff you need on the project and they occasionally decline your requests, what sort of organizational structure are you working in?

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