Do you ever feel frustrated as a manager or leader, knowing your team has so much potential, yet struggles to meet deadlines and make effective decisions? You've assembled a group of talented individuals, but something seems to be holding them back.
Enter the team charter. This powerful document can revolutionize the way your team collaborates, leading to increased productivity and satisfaction. In this blog, we'll delve into the world of team charters, exploring their importance, key components, and how they can unleash your team's true potential.
If you're a manager, team leader, or team member looking for a way to improve your team's performance, this is the blog for you. So, let's get started!
What is a team charter and why is it important?
A team charter is a document developed through a collaborative effort of team members, outlining a team’s purpose, goals, expectations and member roles. It acts as a roadmap for collaboration, aligning everyone towards a shared aim. By setting clear guidelines and encouraging open communication, team charters reduce conflicts, boost productivity and facilitate success.
“The team charter is a set of agreements that clearly states what the team wants to accomplish, why it is important and how the team will work together to achieve results.” – One Minute Manager
What are the benefits of creating a team charter?
- Improved communication: A team charter promotes open dialogue and collaboration among team members. It establishes guidelines for communication, ensuring everyone stays informed and engaged throughout the project.
- Clear expectations: By defining roles, responsibilities and goals, a team charter sets transparent expectations for each team member. This clarity helps prevent misunderstandings and keeps everyone focused on their tasks.
- Enhanced team cohesion and commitment: A charter for a team unites members around a shared purpose, fostering a sense of belonging and camaraderie. This common understanding increases commitment to achieving the team's goals.
- Efficient conflict resolution: A team charter outlines the decision-making process, including how disputes will be resolved. This framework allows for efficient conflict resolution, reducing potential disruptions and maintaining a positive work environment.
What should be included in a team charter?
To create a firm foundation for a high-performing team, the team charter should have sections covering any or all of the seven key components:
- Well-defined goals and direction: They set the team's purpose, objectives and specific targets–providing a clear roadmap for success.
- List of team members or required roles: Ensure the right mix of knowledge and abilities within the team by carefully choosing team members who possess the required skills to achieve the team's objectives.
- Clear roles and responsibilities: Define the expectations for each team member and the team leader to ensure accountability and smooth collaboration.
- Shared working procedures: Establish guidelines for team activities such as meetings, problem-solving, decision-making and other collaborative processes to streamline teamwork. You likely want to build standard operating procedures (SOP) or use a step-by-step guide template.
- Constructive interpersonal relations: Foster a supportive environment by creating a code of conduct that encourages respect, open communication, and conflict resolution among team members.
- Encouragement of team-centric behaviors: Reinforce the importance of teamwork by recognizing and rewarding team-focused behaviors and holding members accountable for meeting expectations.
- Diplomatic ties with others: Develop effective communication strategies with key partners like managers, leaders of other teams, and department heads to maintain a well-connected and collaborative network.
Incorporating these simplified elements into your team charter will help you build a cohesive, efficient and successful team.
Note: In this article, we've adapted the team charter components given above from Gregory Huszczo's book, Tools for Team Leadership: Delivering the X-factor in Team Excellence, and simplified them for better understanding. Huszczo is an experienced psychologist, consultant, and trainer who has worked with leading companies like Ford and Red Cross.
How to create a team charter?
“A charter legitimizes a team. Much like a franchise agreement, it must first be established generically for all teams in the system and then specifically for each team actually launched.” – Tools for Team Leadership by Gregory Huszczo
Gather the team members and stakeholders
To start, bring together the team members, team leader and any relevant stakeholders. Ensure that everyone understands the importance of their involvement in the team charter creation process.
Create an inclusive environment that examines all perspectives. The comprehensive technique ensures that all opinions are considered and helps form a robust basis for the team charter.
Define the team's purpose and objectives
Craft a clear, succinct statement that conveys your team's purpose and desired outcomes. A strong sense of purpose motivates team members and provides direction for their work.
Then, set SMART objectives — specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. Ensure these objectives align with your organization's overarching goals and serve as a guide for your team's efforts.
For instance, a SMART goal for a software testing team might be, "Decrease the number of critical defects discovered in production by 50 percent in the upcoming quarter."
Assign roles & responsibilities
A high-performing team needs clear roles and responsibilities. Assign specific tasks and duties to each team member, making sure everyone understands their role within the team. Outline expectations for both team members and the team leader.
To promote accountability, create a concise matrix displaying each team member's responsibilities and deliverables. This reference point ensures everyone stays aligned and informed.
“Roles and responsibilities should be assigned based on expertise, with gaps or lack of expertise addressed by engaging external resources.” – Claudine Peet in her LinkedIn Learning course: Project Resource Management
Set communication & collaboration guidelines
Define protocols for team communication, such as meeting frequency, information sharing and interactions with other teams within the organization.
Your team charter could outline:
- Regular team meetings.
- Collaboration tools usage (e.g., Slack, Microsoft Teams.
- Email etiquette and response timeframes.
- Document sharing and version control.
- SOPs for team communication and collaboration.
📌 Want to build SOPs, fast? Use free SOP software to facilitate team processes.
Fostering transparency and information sharing creates a collaborative environment where everyone contributes their ideas and expertise.
For instance, as a software engineer at an enterprise organization, my team agreed to daily 15-minute stand-up meetings in the morning to discuss progress and challenges. This approach significantly boosted new hires' productivity by actively addressing their needs.
Scribe can further enhance this collaboration by providing an easy way to share step-by-step guides, making it simple for everyone to understand and follow established processes.
Determine your decision-making processes
Create a clear and efficient decision-making process that outlines the team will make decisions and resolve disputes. Some teams opt for a consensus-based approach, while others prefer a more hierarchical approval structure.
Regardless of your chosen method, it's essential to have a procedure in place to address conflicts and disagreements. This helps prevent misunderstandings and ensures that everyone's voice is heard.
Julie Springer, a Business Agility Coach, says in a LinkedIn post:
“When things get tense, it’s not enough to have a team charter with vision and values and roles.”
Springer suggests including specific behaviors in your team working agreements.
For example, while filling the section on decision-making, the specific behaviors could be:
- Any team member can independently decide on (these types) of things. and then communicate the decision (in this way).
- The entire team must agree on (these types) of decisions.
- Majority vote for (these types) of decisions.
- PO (or other role) makes a final decision on (these types) of decisions.
Identify performance metrics & evaluation methods
Identify the key performance indicators (KPIs) for measuring your team's progress and success. This allows the team to adjust their approach based on performance. For instance, a sales team might track new clients, revenue, and customer retention. Regularly reviewing these metrics helps your team stay on course to reach their goals.
“High-performing teams regularly carry out assessments and evaluations of their work to find improvements, such as agile team retrospectives at the end of each sprint,” says Peet.
Get it reviewed by experts & stakeholders
Seek input from relevant experts and stakeholders to ensure your team charter is comprehensive and aligns with organizational expectations. Involving them in the review process shows a commitment to collaboration and helps you identify potential gaps or areas for improvement.
For instance, you might request feedback from:
- Department heads or senior leaders.
- Subject experts in your team's domain.
- Representatives from other teams that frequently collaborate with yours.
By incorporating their insights, you can refine your team charter and create a robust, actionable framework that fosters a high-performing team. This collaborative approach also strengthens relationships with stakeholders and helps establish a supportive network for your team's success.
With Scribe and Pages, you can easily build an entire team charter using AI, then take advantage of Scribe's review features to facilitate seamless communication in the review process and ensure that all relevant feedback is effectively incorporated into the final team charter.
To keep the charter up-to-date:
- Schedule regular reviews: Assess if the purpose, objectives, and roles still align with the team's needs and the organization's goals.
- Gather feedback: Encourage team members to suggest improvements, including changes in roles, responsibilities or decision-making processes.
📌 Scribe can be a valuable tool for capturing these suggestions and creating easy-to-share guides for any proposed changes.
- Adapt to change: Adjust based on team growth, organizational changes, or project scope shifts to maintain the charter's relevance.
- Communicate updates: Share the revised charter with team members and stakeholders, ensuring everyone stays informed and can adjust accordingly.
Regularly updating the team charter sustains a strong foundation for continued collaboration, productivity, and success.
Build a powerful team charter that can go on
Remember that a team charter is a living document. You and your team should consistently revisit and revise it based on new information, updated SOPs and new hires.
Now that you're equipped with the knowledge to create a powerful team charter, why not make the process even easier by trying out Scribe and Scribe Pages for free?
We recommend using Scribe to build AI-powered team charters that you can easily edit, customize and evolve as your team does.
Check out and use our team charter template today.