The Project Charter in an Agile Environment

I am now moving on in my review of the Agile Practice Guide to Chapter 5:  Implementing Agile: Delivering in an Agile Environment.

The previous chapter was about creating an agile environment.   This chapter will get into the nuts and bolts of how to implement a project in that agile environment.

The first pages of the chapter, pp. 49 and 50, deal with the project charter in an agile environment.

Before we move on to this discussion, let’s review what function the project charter serves in a traditional project environment.   In this way, it will make it easier to compare how a project charter is created in a traditional vs. agile environment.

Based on what PMI says in the 6th Edition of the PMBOK guide, the purpose of a project charter in a traditional project environment is to:

  • establish a partnership between the performing and requesting organization (the customer)
  • establish internal agreements within an organization to ensure proper delivery under the contract
  • grant formal authority to the project manager to implement the project

The project charter is drawn up by the sponsor (which could be a person or an entity such as the Project Management Office), OR the sponsor can delegate the creation of the project charter to the project manager.  (I won’t go into all of the elements of a traditional project charter; these can be found on p. 81 of the PMBOK guide.)

In an agile environment, the project charter is done by and for the project team.   The chartering process helps the team to answer the following questions:

  • Why are we doing this project?  This is the project vision.   Simply put, why does this project matter?
  • Who benefits and how?  This is the project purpose.
  • What does “done” mean for the project?  These are the project’s release criteria.
  • How is the team going to work together?  This maps out the intended flow or work.

Although the team goes through the chartering process together, a servant leader may facilitate the process.   Going through the process has the additional function of having the team start working together.

The emphasis in agile is not necessarily the creation of a formal document, as long as the teams come out of the process understanding how to work together.   This understanding can be referred to as a social contract.   Here are some core elements of that social contract:

  • Team values:  sustainable pace and core hours
  • Working agreements:  what does “ready” mean so the team can take in work; what does “done” mean so that the team can judge completeness consistently; respecting the timebox; respecting the work-in-process (WIP) limits
  • Ground rules:  such as one person talking in a meeting at any given time
  • Group norms:  such as how the team treats meeting times

Simply put, the project charter is a team charter which creates an agile environment in which team members can work to the best of their ability as a team.

The next section covers common agile practices, such as

5.2.1 Retrospectives

5.2.2 Backlog preparation

5.2.3 Backlog refinement

5.2.4 Daily Standups

5.2.5 Demonstrations/Reviews

5.2.6 Planning for Iteration-Based Agile

5.2.7 Execution Practices that Help Teams Deliver Value

5.2.8 Iterations and Increments Help Deliver Working Product

I will start the next post with the first practice on the list, that of retrospectives.



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