What is a team charter?
A team charter is an organizational document that provides all team members with clear goals and objectives, so they can work together more effectively. It creates expectations and boundaries and lets everyone on the team know where they should focus their time and energy. Some organizational charters are created when a team is first put together, while others are used to bring a team that has drifted off course back on track.
Why do you need a team charter?
You may have recently been given the role of team leader or need to motivate your team members to hit specific deadlines or become more productive. If you don’t have a team charter, your team members may not know what’s expected of them or how their contributions can help. When teams are allowed to come together and create a charter together, they walk away from the experience feeling like they’re all on the same page and have a plan for hitting their individual goals within the team.
How to create your team charter
There are a few ways you can create your team charter, and what works best for you may depend on the time and resources you have at your disposal. Some of the most effective team charters are created during team retreats, so team members have the opportunity to become more familiar with one another and gain common ground. Bringing your group on a retreat away from the workplace isn’t always possible, however, so you may need to find alternative ways to bring everyone together to contribute.
What you want to avoid is creating a team charter without your team members’ feedback and contributions. They may not agree with your conclusions or could picture themselves in different roles than your initial assessment.
Schedule a brainstorming session
The best place to brainstorm ideas for a team charter is outside the office. Try to schedule an outing that lets everyone get their minds off work for about half the time they’re gathering. Examples of retreats include going camping, taking a hike, meeting at a trendy restaurant or going to an entertaining event together.
Allowing your team to loosen up helps them form bonds with one another and reveals aspects of their character that may be useful when defining their roles on the team later. Once everyone has had an opportunity to unwind, it’s time to brainstorm ideas for your charter.
You’ll want to have someone take notes while you’re discussing the charter. This task may be delegated to a single person or passed on to multiple people throughout the session. To prepare yourself for the brainstorming session, create a list of questions that the team should review and discuss. Examples of questions you should ask include:
- What is an organizational charter, and what needs to be covered?
- What is the primary function of this team within the corporate structure?
- What impact does this team have on the company’s objectives?
- Who does this team report to?
- Does this team need to work in tandem with any other teams or departments?
- What are the team’s core goals?
- How does the team define success?
- What roles need to be filled on the team?
- Does the team have subgroups that contribute to the larger team’s goals?
When you’re getting to know your team, pay attention to each member’s transferrable skills and how they can contribute to your end goal.
Define the team’s purpose
Before you can begin delegating responsibilities to team members, you need to establish the team’s core purpose. Why does your team exist? It’s a great idea to create a mission statement that’s one or two sentences and identifies four team values to focus on. Limiting the mission statement to four values is better than getting lost in many objectives, which could distract the team and cause members to work against one another.
You shouldn’t deviate from this step to discuss other matters until the team agrees on a mission statement because everything that comes afterward should have roots in your team’s purpose.
Discuss team goals
When you’re discussing goals, you should review what’s expected of you from those you report to. There was a reason you were assigned the role of team lead and that the members of your team were assembled. What does corporate want you to accomplish?
Create realistic goals and discuss how you define success. If you set a goal but don’t let your team know how they can tell they’ve succeeded, they may be discouraged or distracted when it comes time to implement your plans. If your team is divided into subgroups, discuss how each group’s goals work toward the end goal and why it’s important for each team to hit its objectives.
Create clear expectations and roles
One of the reasons teams may not work effectively is that multiple people may attempt to fill the same role. Discuss what you expect from each individual and how their work impacts the others on the team. This is where you can discuss workflows and cohesion, leadership and when team members should reach out for help hitting their individual goals.
The team should agree by the end of the discussion on who’s responsible for which tasks and how they may interact with subgroups when trying to hit deadlines or objectives. If your team hasn’t come to an agreement, don’t force it because teams work better when they come to a conclusion that everyone can live with.
Establish the chain of command
This is an important step because it defines how decisions are made within the group and who has the final say during each step of each process. It also communicates the boundaries of each person’s authority so that no one steps outside those bounds. Some team members may volunteer for roles as subgroup leaders or facilitators, while others may be content to simply contribute to the main objective.
You should arrive at a clear process for how decisions are made and implemented, so no one acts without the proper authority. When you discuss the chain of command, you can also talk about effective team communication and how each member can improve the team’s effectiveness through communication.
Document your progress
Assigning someone to take notes during every step of the process is important so you can establish a clear and concise charter at the end of your meeting. When it comes time to create the final team charter, you may wish to brainstorm the best way to present it, such as in a video or virtual presentation that people can refer to whenever they need it.
Create the final charter
When you’re creating the charter, make sure that you focus on the key points and eliminate tangents and irrelevant information. Your team charter should get to the point quickly and let members know what they can do if they have questions or concerns about specific processes. It should cover your expectations of the team in general and what each person is accountable for.
Don’t be afraid to amend your team charter from time to time or start from scratch if you decide that your team needs to return to basics and realign its priorities.
The bottom line
A team charter is a great way to bring a new team together toward common goals, establish a chain of command and define expectations for everyone on the team. You can use it to get a new team off on the right foot or reinvigorate a team struggling with inefficiency or poor communication.