Starting on a new team can be exciting and energizing, especially when you’re motivated by the team’s mission and inspired by the people you’ll be working with. But it can also be nerve-racking not knowing how you’ll actually work together as a team. One way to guide your team’s success and reduce confusion for team members is by creating a team charter.
What is a team charter?
- A document that the team creates, together, to help define its purpose, how team members are expected to contribute, and the expected outcomes of the team. It will be important that everyone on the team is present, engaged, and contributing ideas when developing the charter.
- It sets the direction for the team, and provides a guide for team members throughout their work together. It’s best to create the charter when the team is first forming as a planning effort, but it can also work for teams looking to get “back on track”.
How I learned to charter
I’m actually a chartering newbie. My first experience was last February, when I worked on a new team with three other graduate students. We used the chartering experience to talk about our past team experiences, and what we were expecting of our team and each other. Here’s what we did:
- We defined what we wanted to accomplish as a team
- Outlined roles we felt comfortable holding and our preferred work styles
- Determined how we wanted to handle conflict
- Decided what we would do if someone wasn’t pulling their weight
- Agreed on modes of communication and collaboration tools
- Recognized we were all motivated by chocolate!
After creating our charter, we were able to move forward with a lot more assurance over how we would work together. We had made commitments to each other, and we felt a sense of ownership over what we had developed together. As we worked together over the semester, one of our deliverables was to facilitate a contracting experience for another newly forming team. We ended up working with a team of five highly technical individuals who were in the midst of redefining their team due to several organizational changes. We walked them through the chartering experience during our initial meeting, which they found to be helpful in how they redefined the scope of their team. Witnessing this other team benefit from the chartering experience convinced me others could also benefit from team chartering.
Why does chartering work?
- It clarifies the team objective, purpose, and goals. A team cannot function properly if there is doubt over what needs to be accomplished and why it makes sense to do so. Rather than assuming everyone is on the same page, chartering provides the opportunity to agree together.
- It identifies roles and responsibilities. When your team is already in the middle of a task, it can be time-consuming and confusing to figure out who is supposed to be handling each task.
- It addresses potential sources of conflict. By surfacing things like managing poor team performance, communication preferences, and work preferences, the team can move forward knowing how they’ll be addressed.
- It creates alignment. When all team members work together on drafting the charter, there is more likelihood of buy-in and understanding of how the team will work together.
What does a charter look like?
You can see an example of a team charter here: Sample Team Charter, and if you’re interested in adapting one for your team, you can use this version: Team Charter Template by making a copy or downloading into Word.
If this is something you want to try, check out Mindtools for more information about creating team charters: https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTMM_95.htm
Please share your experience with team charters in the comments section below…