Project teams are formed in organizations around the world each day. And most of those teams flounder unnecessarily for too long and some flounder forever). There is one simple practice that can improve the results of most any team, whether formed for a short project or as a new working unit. That practice is team chartering.
The team charter is a document that serves as both guidance and a roadmap for any team’s success. When used most effectively, this tool clarifies the purpose for the team's existence and documents the agreements amongst the team members.
Here are the seven reasons why a team chartering process will be of great benefit when forming any project team.
1. Shows support and commitment. One of the key components to an effective team charter is the identification of a team sponsor or a person outside of the team that can provide support and direction to the team. Many teams flounder because they don't have a “go to” person they can rely on when they get stuck or encounter obstacles. The team charter is one way for those sponsors to communicate their interest and support. The charter also provides the team with the assurance that such a person exists.
2. Sets team direction. A good team charter will provide a team with the rationale and goals for the team. Often teams are formed without these ideas having been clearly defined. This is a problem not only for the creation of the team, but makes the work of the team exceedingly difficult. How do you know what to do when you don't know the specific goals and objectives you are supposed to achieve? If I could have only one component to any team charter it would be a clear definition of the direction, goals to be reached, and problems to be solved by the team.
3. Provides agreements and clarity. Charters provide more than just overall direction and alignment to the organization's overall purpose. The best charters also provide a chance for the team itself to build agreements about how they will operate, make decisions, how often they will meet, and many other logistical issues.
4. Structures and ensures and effective planning process. Too often in our fast-paced world, teams move too quickly to building a solution because they think that immediate action is required. With this perspective they spend too little time in planning for successful action. A team chartering process, form, or checklist helps make sure a team plans successfully before moving forward. The time spent in planning initially will be repaid many times over during the life of the team - both in time saved and frustration avoided.
5. Identifies roles. Will the same person facilitate each meeting? Who is the team leader? Are there specific expectations of the team members? What roles will each individual will play? Does every team member understand why they're there and what expertise they can provide? A team chartering process can help answer all of these questions, and thereby help any team be more successful more quickly.
6. Outlines boundaries and scope. Often teams wonder what's inside of their control and what is actually expected of them. A good chartering process should help a team understand what their boundaries are what their limitations are what parts of the problem they are responsible for etc.
7. Sets resources. Teams often wonder what about their level of authority. Can they hire consultants? Can they bring in outside experts? What is their budget? Can they bring in additional resources within the organization? A good chartering document will help set both the resource requirements and levels of authority the team has to acquire more resources when needed.
8. Improves productivity, and the likelihood of successful outcome. All of the first seven benefits lead to this one - the ultimate benefit of all. Successfully chartering will improve the likelihood that the team will be less frustrated take less time and create greater results.
The importance of a team chartering process can’t be overstated. You'll notice that I have outlined the benefits and therefore implied many of the key components to a successful team charter. Remember that the form, format or template you use is less important than the time spent in conversation and dialogue to make sure what you document is realistic, and relevant. Remember too that you want to create something not as an exercise but as a living document for the team to use as both a guide and a roadmap.
When you invest the time to do a team charter, you will truly help the team as a whole be more successful. And you will also be providing a highly valued structure to help individual team members be less frustrated and more productive.
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