A project charter is a short document that contains the most relevant project information, is approved by the project managers and stakeholders, is kept up to date, and can be used by all team members as the single source of truth when running a project, specially in the initiation and planning phases.
A good project charter contains basic administrative data to identify and manage the project, expresses the needs and objectives of the project, the conditions and risks, the go-to people, stakeholders and decision makers as well as the initial budget and constraints, milestones, and communications strategy.
Project charters are useful not only because they make sure everybody is on the same page regarding the fundaments of the project, but also because they reinforce the position of the project manager and acts as a framework for decision making and acceptance.
Project charters can live in Google Docs documents, in Confluence spaces or in boards printed out and hung on your office walls. Whatever solution fits your team, having a go-to reference when working on the project will save your team time and headaches.
This version of the project charter is a visual one: compared with redacted documents that are at least a couple of pages long and require verbalising the agreements, this one can be printed in A3 paper and filled in with markers or sticky notes (or better, stattys!) while agreements are being made.
It is inspired by the clarity of tools like the Business Model Canvas and other mind-mapping tools. Having all in one page makes things visible at first glance, while the colour codes divide the form in 6 sections: blue for general information, green for inputs, purple for targets, orange for people, yellow for conditions, and red for strategy.
A good idea once you are done with the preparation of the project charter is to make a digital version you can send by email to all the stakeholders and get a written GO! If you this this could help you and want an editable version, feel free to reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.