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Once the project has been defined, the project manager should seek formal approval from the sponsor and appropriate management stakeholders. There are many ways to gain formal project approval. A little bit of planning is the key. For small projects, one signature from the main client or project sponsor is probably sufficient to show approval of the work to begin. This approval could also be via email confirmation. However, it should not be verbal.
For larger projects, ask your manager and the project sponsor to identify who should have explicit approval of the Project Charter, who should have implicit approval and who needs to get a copy for informational purposes only. In general, use the following approach as your starting point:
Project Sponsor. Get an explicit (proactive) approval. This approval can be a formal signature on a paper copy of the Project Charter. It could also be an email specifically stating approval. You might also have some type of formal workflow approval. The key is that the approval is explicit and that you save a record of the approval. The sponsor should have seen prior draft copies before you circulate the final version. This final approval should be a formality only. You don’t want to be in a position where you are trying to gain final approval and yet the sponsor has further concerns or questions.
Other key management stakeholders. Get an implicit approval. Implicit means that you assume they approve the Project Charter unless they get back to you otherwise. You would first send them a soft or hard copy of the Project Charter. Let them know you would like them to review the material and provide feedback, especially if they have questions or concerns. Then give them a date for replying and let them know that if you do not hear back from them before the date you will assume they are granting their approval. If they come back to you with concerns, address them or take them to the project sponsor for resolution. It is important that these people have seen a prior draft and have a chance to provide input. When you are sending the Project Charter out for final approval, you want all concerns to have been expressed already. You don’t want to be dealing with problems, concerns or uncertainty while you are trying to gain final approval from the sponsor.
Other interested parties. Send them a copy of the Project Charter. Let them know that it is for their information only. You should be available to discuss any content so that they can better understand the material, but you are not sending it to them for their approval. This may be the first time that these people have seen the Project Charter. However, you are not in a position to take requests to change the document since you probably already have sponsor approval. If there are any major concerns, the person with the concerns should take them directly to the sponsor.
Identifying these three levels of approval will ensure that the right people review the Charter, the right people approve the Charter, and the others have a copy for their information.