Terms of Reference

DEFINITION of ‘Terms of Reference’

Also known as the project charter, the file outlining the general structure of a project is referred to as the Terms of Reference. This strategic document provides the project team with a clear map from which to initiate the project.  The Terms of Reference typically contains, across two or three pages, a list of the stakeholders, the project objectives, a high-level summary of the scope, and each of the constraints, assumptions, risks, and deliverables.

BREAKING DOWN ‘Terms of Reference’

Essentially, the Terms of Reference (TOR) is a repository of information offering a concise overview of each of the primary variables of the project. Many project managers build a TOR for each project stage and in fact, a TOR can be constructed for any task where oversight is required. Consider for example a quarterly business review. When planning the meeting, you’d want to be able to convey its purpose (the summary), the points to be discussed (the objectives or the deliverables) and the agenda (the schedule).  It would also be important to identify the attendees (the stakeholders), and finally highlight (and manage) any potential reasons why the meeting might not be successful (risks or constraints).

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