How to Create a Team Charter for Success

You’ve probably had an opportunity to be part of a team that wasn’t as successful as you’d hoped. It isn’t much fun to watch a team struggle and never find their way to success. This will typically happen when a group of people has been “anointed” as a team with no direction or purpose. And it clearly doesn’t work.

The best way to set your team up for success is to create a team charter. A team charter is a set of concepts and skills that focus your team; enabling them to quick start, engage effectively, break apart at project or role completion and reengage. In other words, it’s a road map of sorts that keeps the team focused on their purpose so they can achieve success.

A team charter should include several components that help define the team and keep it on track. At a minimum, your team charter should include:

  • Team Purpose (Mission)
  • Measurable/Verifiable Goals
  • Operating Guidelines

What’s really helpful about a Team Charter is that it provides a common understanding of how the Team “runs it’s business.” The charter can be used as a discussion guide should issues surface as the team accomplishes its goals.

Let’s walk through each of the components to get a clear understanding.

Team Purpose (Mission)

This component is the major purpose that the team fulfills in providing products and services to its internal and external customers. It includes:

  • The reason for the team’s existence
  • Why you come to work
  • The core business activity

Your team mission and goals should work together to meet the needs of your internal and external stakeholders.

Team Goals

Goals will serve as the blueprint  through which your team designs its future.   Goals are a desired result based on the success criteria determined by the team and can provide opportunities to troubleshoot potential problems that could interfere with the success of the team. There are two different types of goals your team could develop: 1) Work plan goals and 2) Process improvement goals.

  • Your team work plan goals will define what is to be achieved by when and should include timelines, deliverables, checkpoints, tracking and measurement.
  • Process improvement goals will define what is to be improved, by how much, and when results should be accomplished. Typical process improvement goals focus on reducing bottlenecks/delays/hand-offs, reducing costs, increasing safety, and improving the quality of work.

Here are some key points to remember about team goals.

  • Is the goal statement easy to understand?
  • Is it specific and measurable?
  • Can everyone on the team live with it?
  • Is it achievable?
  • If we accomplish it, will it make a difference in our success?

And don’t forget, your team goals should be SMART — specific, measurable, agreed upon in writing, realistic, time activated and tracked.

Operating Guidelines

Your team operating guidelines should include statements reflecting how the team will conduct their business within the team environment. Working through the process of creating guidelines can be a bit tedious, but the payoff in team members understanding how the team will function in the long run is worth the time invested.

Possible guidelines you could consider for your team might be:

  • Code of conduct and safe environment
  • Meeting guidelines
  • Decision making guidelines
  • Conflict resolution process
  • Workload distribution
  • Internal and external communications
  • Team additions/terminations

Once your team charter is complete, every team member and the team sponsor / manager should sign it. You might be tempted to skip this step, but it’s very important. The act of signing the charter is very powerful in helping each of the team members commit to those items agreed upon by the team.

As your team functions and completes it’s purpose, use the charter to help guide you along the path to success.

What do you think? Do you create a team charter for your teams? Let’s talk about it. Please leave a comment.

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Denise O'Berry

Denise O’Berry — aka the Team Doc — has been working with teams and team leadership in the public, non profit and private sectors for over twenty years. She gets a lot of joy from working with teams and their leadership to help them improve and work through team issues. Not only does her advice come from the heart, it comes from years of experience working as a team member, team leader, manager and owner of her own company. She has truly walked in your shoes and offers help so you can be a better team leader. You can find more advice from Denise at her website Ask Team Doc and don't forget to follow her on Twitter @deniseoberry.

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