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Terms of Reference or TOR

July 14 2010

At first glance, the words “terms of reference” appear to be a vague description of an informational source. This could not be farther from the truth. This is a specific description of the set purpose for a committee, negotiations between different parties, meeting, or project of a group of individuals that have decided on achieving a goal together.  In a business plan, this is referred to as the Project Charter.

In the terms of reference, how the scope of a project will be defined is described, along with how it will progress until the conclusion is verified. Every step of this process should be properly documented so reference to it can be accomplished in the future. This is where attention to detail is crucial.

Specific definitions that need to be defined are to be created, the overall objectives in creating this project, and how it is to be achieved. This is to be fully documented with no ambiguity on any point.  If during the review there are any questions or confusion, it should be cleared up in writing so all parties included fully understand what is to transpire in the future.

Who is to be involved and to what degree is also part of the terms of reference. Clearly defining the roles, whether active involvement or passive involvement, should be documented and agreed to.

The resources responsibilities also needed to be defined so completion of the project can be properly funded. There will need to be a structured plan that is agreed to and approved by all parities so it will be known when the project is to have a deliverable.

The last part of terms of reference should be a list of risks and issues that could arise during the process and what will be done, and by whom, to overcome such obstacles.

Finally, after everything has been decided and agreed to, all involved parties should sign the document as evidence of the agreement.

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