One of the core principles of any successful business is teamwork, and when teams aren’t functioning well, there is very little chance of the company as a whole achieving its goals. Without a clear direction & purpose for a team, however, there’s not much room for teamwork. And that’s where a good team charter can save the day.
What Is A Team Charter?
When a new team is formed, a team charter should be drawn up to define what the team should be and what it should (and shouldn’t) be doing. Alternatively, it’s also possible to bring in a new team charter to boost an existing team that is underperforming, though it can be difficult make this kind of charter a success without significant buy-in from the individuals in the team.
The basics of what should be on a team charter include:
- Mission – This should a simple statement of what the team’s purpose is. Why does it exist, what is it meant to achieve? If this can’t be summed up in a simple statement, how is the team meant to know what its purpose is?
- How Success Will Be Measured – Having a mission is one thing, but teams need to know how they will be measured on an ongoing basis. What goals can be verified along the path towards the mission objective?
- Guidelines – The what and why should be clear, but so should the how. How will the team operate and what rules and guidelines will be in place to ensure that things run smoothly?
These three things should underpin the core of what goes into a team charter, but there is plenty of other information that is required to ensure that the team works as a unit with clear shared goals and responsibilities.
But let’s be clear about why a charter is needed.
The Benefits Of A Team Charter
Having a team charter is more than just fussy bureaucracy creating paperwork that will be ignored once the real work starts. It is about establishing the groundwork for a successful team project, and these are some of the main benefits of a team charter:
- Gaining Buy-In – If your team consists of existing company staff, they might be unsure or hesitant about being part of a new project. What’s the project? Is it going to succeed? Will I have more responsibilities? A good team charter makes all of this clear, encouraging employees to buy-in and participate more.
- Establishing Roles and Responsibilities – Without clarity, your team will be sitting around wondering who’s responsible for what. A good team charter defines the exact roles and responsibilities for each team member, allowing for them to functional more much efficiently.
- Demonstrating the Value of the Team – When the team is established and performing well, its value should be clear to see for everyone within the organization, but when it is just starting out, it can be more difficult to ensure that its worth is obvious to everyone. Any team needs the support and respect of other teams, so a team charter can help to make sure everyone else knows why this team is required.
- Providing Accountability – When things go wrong, which can happen to any team in any business, there needs to be definable accountability so everyone is aware of where the buck stops. With a team charter, you know exactly who’s responsible for what, and why – this ensures accountability for both the team and each member.
What To Include In A Team Charter
These are the aspects you need to make sure you have included when you write a team charter:
As mentioned above, this is the essential part of any team charter, to the extent where you can’t have a team charter without one. Anything else is just a set of rules for a team with no clear purpose, and that is basically setting up the team for failure.
There are 2 main aspects to defining a team purpose…
- The Mission Statement – What the general mission of the team is. This should be a simple, clear sentence on what the team is to accomplish.
- Measurable Goals – Saying what your team is going to do is usually not enough. For there to be clear progress, the mission statement should come with measurable goals. i.e, metrics to measure how successfully the team is performing
If the team has a limited lifespan (the length of a project, for example), this should be mentioned here too, to ensure that is clear.
Roles And Responsibilities
Even if not all the team members have been recruited when the team charter is being written, their roles and responsibilities need to be established and written down in here.
This should ideally be done within a RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) Matrix, to make these responsibilities clear to everyone from the outset of the team’s work.
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A benefit of doing this at the start of the team’s lifespan is that gaps can be identified in the team structure and filled before it might potentially lead to a problem.
This is an important part of the team charter because it sets out what budgets and resources will be available to help the team achieve its goals.
The budget should be divided up among the functions within the team with project milestones in mind, including any additional resources. Again, doing this at the earliest stage possible makes it clear where any shortfall lies and gives an opportunity for it to be remedied.
No one wants to start carrying out a project, only to realize that the company never had enough resources, to begin with.
How will the team as a whole and the individuals within it be assessed and reviewed? This should be made clear in the team charter, along with the basics of how the team will operate on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. How often will individual and team check-ins take place?
What format will these take? This last one is especially significant if the team is not all based in the same office or even country.
At what stage will formal reviews take place during the lifespan of the team, if this is different to how the review process works in general at the organization? How often will the charter itself be reviewed and updated if necessary?
Team charters are not yet considered standard practice in all businesses, but they clearly have an important role to play in the future of how we work.
Taking the time to plan and document everything in a team charter sets up that team to have every chance to succeed and overcome any problems that lie in its path. The more thought that goes into the team charter the better, because, as mentioned a few times above, the planning process can highlight potential issues before they’ve even had a chance to become issues.