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What makes a great team work?
There are many ways this question could be answered. Powerful tools, a detailed plan, efficient workflows, great documentation. All these are important when it comes to creating the environment for great teamwork.
But the most important part of a team is its people. Even with all the tools and plans in the world, if a team lacks a shared understanding of their goals or of each other, they will be unable to reach their full potential.
The team charter is a tool that’s meant to bridge that gap. Going through the exercise of creating a team charter is a powerful way to align your team’s understanding of important topics and establish clear expectations.
In this blog you’ll learn everything you need to know about a team charter so that you can make your own and empower your team to work better together. Just keep reading or choose a section you want to learn more about:
A team charter is an agreement between you and your teammates for how you will work together. It’s a document that you will all fill out together that provides a baseline for how you will communicate and what your goals as a team are.
The team charter has several purposes, including the following:
Not only can you revisit a team charter as a source of information, but the process of creating it is also a team-building activity to promote unity and understanding between members.
Any type of team can have a team charter. Brand-new teams, cross-functional teams, executive teams—as long as it’s important that a group of people all understand each other and how to best work together, it’s worthwhile to have a team charter.
The best time to build a team charter is when the team is first formed. Maybe you’ve added a lot of new people to your team lately, or teams at your workplace have been significantly restructured. Getting on the same page with a team charter will help everyone get to know each other and hopefully smooth out potential future roadblocks.
However, your team doesn’t have to be new to create a team charter. You can do it any time you feel it’s important to define your team’s purpose or to eliminate misunderstanding and miscommunication. If you’ve never had a discussion like this with your team, it may not be a bad idea to do so now — it could help you in the long run.
The team charter can and should be customizable to your team, as each one is different. This document is ultimately for you, so make sure you’re doing whatever meets your team’s needs.
However, there are several common elements of the team charter that can help you establish a starting place if you’re not sure where to begin.
This is the simplest part of the team charter. Who is on the team? This can include names, titles, a brief background, or even some strengths and weaknesses.
What are the core values that your team will operate by as you work together? Try to find a few things that you all agree on and connect with, and then talk about what that will look like in day to day work.
What is your team’s objective, both among yourselves and in the context of your organization? What are you trying to accomplish together? What are the individual goals of each person on your team? The ideal is that as your team meets its goals, each member is also getting closer to achieving their own goals for personal development.
What is each person’s role and what does their role entail? Who will be completing the most critical tasks that your team is responsible for? How will the work be divided? How will you review each other’s work?
Answering these questions helps everyone understand what is expected of them and what they should expect from others. You can also get into more detailed aspects of responsibility, such as who will handle the team’s budget and what specific workflows look like, if necessary.
How will you communicate with each other? Will you meet virtually, in person, daily, weekly, every other week? Who should team members ask if they have questions or need help? How will you share information with each other?
Again, this is about managing expectations, for yourself and others. Teams should know what to expect and understand how they can be connected to the group. If you’d like, you can also discuss group norms for conflict resolution and how you will address disagreements within the team.
How will your team define success? Who will be responsible for evaluating success? If your team’s goals are within the SMART goals framework, these metrics should be both specific and measurable.
This exercise doesn’t work unless the whole team is involved. Whether you can gather everyone into a conference room tomorrow or need to schedule a time that works across multiple time zones, the most important part of the team charter is that every member of the team is part of putting it together.
Each member of the team will contribute their own insights to each section of the team charter. If you get stuck on any section, especially the more abstract ones such as core values, it might help to brainstorm as a group to come up with ideas together.
If there are points of disagreement or confusion, take the time to talk through it and come to a consensus. The purpose of this exercise is to increase understanding and unity as a team, so make sure no one feels left behind or like their voice isn’t being heard.
For each section (aside from team member identification), consolidate the thoughts everyone has expressed and agreed on into one statement that will act as a summary. This will make it even easier to review and remember what’s been discussed.
You should view the team charter as a living document that can change and grow as your team does. When you add new people or shift priorities, you can revisit the document and update it to align with your current vision.
You can build your own team charter from scratch or save some time by starting with our online template. It’s a great starting point, but you can customize by adding as many notes and sections as you need.
Click here to launch template >>
Maybe you’re gathering your team in person to write out a charter on paper, or maybe you’re starting with our online template. Either way, you’ve got all the information you’ll need to establish an effective framework for future team activities.
If you’re looking to create a team charter online that can be easily shared and updated as necessary, don’t forget to start your free trial of Gliffy. Whether you’re working in Confluence or online, Gliffy’s drag-and-drop interface makes it easy to put together the perfect visual to represent your team.
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