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As far as I understood from PM certification course from Google, initiating projects is a job usually done by someone else, other than the PM. The PM receives a ready business case which he pours into the project charter template... This notion doesnn't really help because I am working on my own project where I don't have any business case, and the charter template doesn't help me to fill itself. So who is this if not PM who initiates projects?

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TL;DR

I am working on my own project where I don't have any business case, and the charter template doesn't help me to fill itself.

If you think project managers generally get well-defined specifications and business cases that spring full-formed from the head of Zeus, you're in for some seismic shocks in the working world. Drop that notion before you set yourself up for failure.

In your specific case, you are the project sponsor since you're the person who wants something done. You are also the project manager, since it's then up to you to plan the thing.

Getting Down to Brass Tacks

Traditional project management certainly includes project initiation as part of the project lifecycle. Specifics may depend on your chosen framework.

Most likely, you are being confused by the difference between "project initiation" as a stage or artifact in the project management process, and the need for a stakeholder, sponsor, or champion to authorize and/or finance the project in the first place.

Pragmatically, someone has to delegate authority and budget for a project. While those elements are often captured in project initiation artifacts, there's usually a person, committee, or role that effectively sponsors the project. The sponsor says:

The company needs to do this thing. Project manager, go capture a list of all the people who need to be involved in steering, funding, and delivering this thing.

Next, go estimate the costs to deliver it by some arbitrary target date. Then we'll all argue about who's responsible for what, whose budget(s) it will come out of, what it should look like when it's finished, and when we all expect it to be completed regardless of practical considerations.

That's pretty much what real project initiation looks like. There will be much hand-waving, guesswork, and wishful thinking during project initiation, but you will likely still be held accountable for the outcome anyway.

The PMBOK, Prince2, and other frameworks will have much more to say, and take themselves much more seriously about it. Some frameworks also prescribe specific approaches to doing each of the things I mentioned (slightly) tongue-in-cheek. In the end, though, project initiation from a PM perspective is really all about step two below:

  1. Someone with budget or authority decides to sponsor a project.
  2. The project manager helps coordinate the planning of the plan.
  3. The project manager oversees the execution of the plan.
  4. The sponsor takes credit if the project succeeds.
  5. The project manager takes the blame if the project fails, which it statistically will 68% of the time.

Don't get hung up on who the sponsor is, although in your scenario that's you. You need to capture the sponsor's identity during project initiation since they're the person who is (theoretically) accountable for the project's existence, but the project manager—that's you again in this case—are still the one who is accountable for ensuring the existence of a project charter or other initiation documents that you'll need to manage the remainder of the project.

If you want dictionary definitions or theoretical answers that don't apply in real life, I'm sure you can find a source to support your current notion of how project initiation is supposed to work. However, now you know how it actually works, and that the project initiation phase is part of the project management lifecycle and most definitely involves the project manager.

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  • Then I should probably refrase the Q: Is starting up a project part of the project management? According to PMBOK it may not be, yet in PRINCE2 it is apparently a separate phase (or is it more like "evaluation phase" when you look at someone else's concept/brief and decide that you really don't like it at all, which was my impression of PRINCE2 methodology)
    – troyan
    Commented Dec 2, 2023 at 8:23
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    @troyan Yes, spinning up the project is part of the job. You're still conflating sponsorship with project management. Please stop doing that!
    – Todd A. Jacobs
    Commented Dec 2, 2023 at 8:41
  • We used to have a separate project team that spent its time initiating projects then handing them over if approved to a delivery team - but these initiation stages were still projects! So @ToddA.Jacobs has nailed it in this answer. Apart from having the initial fuzzy idea, a PM is almost certain to be involved throughout the initiation of a project, as well as in the project delivery which may or may not happen depending on what comes out of the initiation phase.
    – Iain9688
    Commented Dec 2, 2023 at 15:59
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I used to work for Google and took their internal PM courses. It depends on the project. Generally, the larger the project, the less likely any one person has the responsibility of starting it. If you are hired onto a large project that has hundreds of stakeholders, a huge budget, multiple teams involved, and a long start and finish, then no, you are probably not the only person starting and ending things.

However, within that project, the project manager is responsible for finding problems and solutions, which will probably involve starting smaller, focused, short-term projects. For example, I found that to solve part of the large project I was hired onto, we needed more data, so I launched a six month data gathering project; when that was complete, I launched a follow-up data analysis project, after which I started a re-training and communictions project.

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    Commented Dec 10, 2023 at 7:39

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