Learning & Development

How to Create a Team Charter

By Jilaine Parkes, president and founder of Sprigg Talent Management Systems

Creating and agreeing on a team charter can set team projects up for success. This is an opportunity to ensure that everyone involved at the team (and senior management) level knows why the project needs to be carried out, understands what the objectives and measures of success are, and has a clear idea of who is doing what and with what resources.

The format of team charters varies from situation to situation and from team to team. Much of the value of the charter comes from thinking through and agreeing on the various elements.

Here we’ll take a look at just one process that can be used for creating a team charter.

Adapt the following elements to your team’s situation.

  1. Context
  2. Mission and Objectives
  3. Composition and Roles
  4. Authority and Boundaries
  5. Resources and Support
  6. Operations
  7. Negotiation and Agreement

This sets the charter’s introduction. Understanding and documenting the context sets out why the team was formed, the problem it’s trying to solve, how this problem fits in with wider objectives of the organization, and the consequences of the problem going unresolved.

Mission and Objectives
This section is at the heart of the charter. By defining a mission, the team knows what it has to achieve. Without a clear mission, individuals can too easily pursue their own agendas independently of, and sometimes irrespective of, the overarching goal.

Sprigg recommends that it’s helpful to consider using the SMART framework (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound) when you’re writing goals and objectives. The key here is to make sure each objective can be measured, so that success can be monitored.

Composition and Roles
The members of a team are key to the successful delivery on goals. Teams can be most effective when:

  • They have members with the skills and experience needed to carry out the job.
  • They bring experience and approaches from a range of different backgrounds.
  • They have enough people to do the job, but not so many that people get bogged down in communication. We’d suggest no more than 10 team members.

It’s important to look at what each person can (and will) do to support the team in achieving its mission. While this may seem like overkill at the very beginning of team formation, it will help you:

  • Match up team members with roles.
  • Spend the time to identify potential gaps in skills and abilities that are necessary for the team to reach its goals.

Authority and Empowerment
With the roles defined, you now need to look at what team members can and can’t do to achieve the mission:

  • Time: How much time is reasonable for each team member to allocate to the team mission?
  • Priorities: How do the team charter goals weigh against members’ other ongoing activities and goals?
  • Budget: What budget is available? How much time and money will be needed to succeed?
  • Additional help: If needed, can the team recruit other team members?
  • Remit: What can the team do, what can it not do, and what does it need prior approval to do?

Resources and Support
Without the correct level of resources, your team is doomed to fail. By taking the time to understand the investments of time and money required, your team will be given the ammunition to achieve.

Within this area, don’t forget about the potential value of outsourcing training and coaching to help fill leadership and knowledge gaps.

Getting to the nuts and bolts of the process is essential. Once you know what you want to do and have the support you need to do it, you should agree how it works on a daily basis. This can be as detailed or as minimal as the situation warrants. It may be comprehensive and detailed for a long-duration team, or limited to a few bullet points in a team that is expected to have a short life.

Negotiation and Agreement
Sprigg believes in the power of conversations. Just like goals and development plans created through our performance management software, a good team charter is created through constructive dialogue and a process of agreement.

Ultimately, the team needs to believe that the mission is achievable, and commit to it. By getting full buy-in from all team members, you can increase the chances of alignment, collaboration, and success.

Last comes approval. This is where all members of the team sign off on the charter and commit to the principles it contains and the roles and responsibilities detailed.

This symbolic gesture shows each team member’s commitment to the mission and objectives. It also helps to create accountability.

About Jilaine Parkes
Jilaine Parkes is a knowledgeable and passionate HR/Organization Development Professional with nearly 25 years’ combined experience in large, dynamic organizations and independent HR/OD consulting.

Want to learn more? Contact Jilaine at jparkes@sprigghr.com, call her at 888-797-5583, or visit www.sprigghr.com.


2 thoughts on “How to Create a Team Charter”

  1. What a great idea! I wish this would become a matter of course. Although the article doesn’t state it explicitly, I’m assuming all team members should have input on the drafting of the charter?

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