Team charters

Most teams get a goal or project and madly start working on goal accomplishment. Without clear team charter agreements, though, teams experience some negative effects.  This is what Peter Drucker described when he said. “The only things that naturally occur in organizations are anger, frustration, and fear.”

Our research and experience tell us that teams need clarity of purpose, values, goals, and strategy. This is a foundation for team performance and team member morale. Chartering your team helps align team members’ skills and efforts towards the accomplishment of agreed-to goals and targets. In addition, these clear agreements enable desired norms in how team members work with and treat each other as they work to accomplish team goals.

Team building

When warmer weather approaches, managers and leaders are inspired. They decide that their team needs to do some outdoor bonding and celebrating, So they sign up for a “teambuilding” session. Activities such as paintball, whitewater rafting, ropes courses, simulations, cooking competitions, and the like are common team-building exercises. The hope is that team activities will help improve relationships among team members. The exercises will increase cooperative interaction and team productivity.

The reality is that many of these team-building programs do not generate long-term benefits. How many of you have attended such a program, yet found that little changed when the team returned to their work environment?

To ensure teams benefit from teambuilding activities, spend time planning exactly what goals you have for the session (“What do you want to accomplish with this activity?”). Find a provider that has proven experience with intentional instructional design and focused facilitation to help embed take-aways, and beneficial agreements, and help teams demonstrate desired behaviors back on the job. This is where a team charter comes in.

Key Elements of a Team Charter

Your team charter formalizes performance expectations and team values, which clarifies what the team is delivering and how they’ll work to deliver those products and/or services. It is a working document that evolves as the team learns how to increase productivity and team member satisfaction over time. The main elements of a team charter include:

  • Organizational Vision, Purpose, and Values – all teams are “sponsored” by the organization in which they operate. A team must understand the vision, purpose, and values of the company. This is so that it can align team purpose and values with those defined organizational elements.
  • Team Purpose – the team’s purpose statement identifies what the team does, for whom, and why it is important. A clear purpose provides direction for identifying team goals. It sets out the roles needed to accomplish those goals.
  • Team Values and Norms – Values are the enduring principles that guide the team and team members’ plans, decisions, and actions. Norms are the day-to-day ground rules that clarify appropriate behaviours for team members.
  • Team Goals and Roles – goals identify the measurable outcomes and timelines that must be delivered to ensure team success. Roles define the individual responsibilities required for the successful operation of the team.
  • Team Practices – this section defines the team’s strategies and processes that ensure the team stays on track to deliver promised outcomes. Practices include communication strategies, decision-making authority, and accountability practices.
  • Team Resources – these are the tangible materials the team needs to accomplish its goals, including time, budget, people, equipment, training, etc.

If your team would benefit from clear agreements and norms – if conflict, silos, and entitlement inhibit team performance – formalize a team charter, and watch productivity and team satisfaction rise.

  • About the Author
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S. Chris Edmonds is a speaker, author, and executive consultant. He shares insights on organizational culture, servant leadership, employee engagement, and workplace inspiration.

He writes books and articles and records podcasts.

In his free time, he’s a working musician with the Brian Raine band in Denver, CO.