Why Not Include a Not List in Your Project Charter?

Revision processWhen putting together a project charter, I find it valuable to always include a Not list along with the other sections of my project charter.

As the name implies, a Not list is a list of things not included in the project. Sometimes called the Engagement Objective Exclusions, the Not list generally follows the Project Deliverables section in the charter. Its purpose is to simply and plainly state which items are out-of-scope for a project and will not be part of the deliverables.

While it may seem odd to document and have the client sign off on what you’re not going to do, the Not list is invaluable in preventing scope creep, particularly for consulting jobs. For example, on a current IT project where my team is migrating a production ERP system to a new machine located out-of-state, we added the following item to our Not list.

  1. Any changes outside of those items needed to move the server to its new location are considered out of scope

The intent is to insure that the server we deliver is an exact copy of its source system, without any untested changes that can affect its ability to process orders in its new home. If you think hard about a current project you’re working on, I’m sure you can come with one or more Not list items that will help you more reliably achieve project goals.

Just as putting a fence up reigns in farm animals and defines where their world starts and ends, a Not list reigns in your project and put up a virtual fence that defines the boundaries of your project.

And in situations where scope creep can cost time and money, its helpful to define Not list boundaries up front. It pays to tell your clients what you can and cannot do when implementing their project.

A well-designed Not list that’s signed off on by the client can save you a lot of time and hassle during the implementation phase. It pre-answers whether any additional requests fit into your project definitions and gives you authority to either charge the client for additional changes or to reject those changes as being out-of-scope. In its own way, a Not list is as valuable to your project charter as the list of Project Deliverables.

That’s why I usually include a Not list in my project charters. And I recommend you consider adding a Not list to your project charters, too.

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About Joe Hertvik

Joe is the owner of Hertvik Business Services, a service company providing written white papers, case studies, and other marketing content to computer industry companies. He is also a contributing editor for IT Jungle and has written the Admin Alert column for the past ten years. Follow Joe Hertvik on Twitter @JoeHertvik. Email Joe for a free quote on white papers, case studies, brochures, or other marketing materials.
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