Join Tatiana Kolovou for an in-depth discussion in this video Team charters, part of Communication Tips Weekly.
- Teams. Project teams, task forces, committees, whatever you call them. We frequently find ourselves working with others to accomplish certain goals. Sometimes these teams are great, and other times they can be a waste of time, or worse. I mediated dysfunctional teams for many years, and saw first hand the psychological and performance devastation that a bad team can cause. A Team Charter, is a written document stating what the team should accomplish, and how the team will accomplish its goals.
Charters generally include purpose, specific goals, scope or boundaries, operating procedures, and an endorsement. You can find examples of each component at the resource sites listed in the exercise file for this movie. Research on teams clearly points to the team charter as a simple tool that helps teams progressively improve, and feel more satisfied. In other words, a team charter can help you feel better about your teams, and get better results with your team.
Management guru Ken Blanchard calls the team charter the single most important step for getting a team off to a good start and keeping it on track throughout its existence. Why do these charters work so well? We've all heard the adage failure to plan is planning to fail. A team that dives right in to the project assigned to them fails to plan. They may feel as though they are being particularly productive because they aren't wasting any time on silly charters, but in the end, they will be outperformed by the team that took a little bit of time to discuss their expectations of one another and their path forward.
The team with a good charter is like the builder with a strong foundation. The rest of the building blocks will stand strong. Without that charter, your solid foundation, everything you build from day one on might shift, it might teeter, it might come crashing down around you. Let's take a closer look at a few of the components of the charter to better understand why it has such a profound impact on teams.
The goals are obviously important, as this section answers why does this team even exist, and what specifically will we accomplish. By identifying roles, you ensure that you have the right people on the team to accomplish your goals. If you realize you have a big skill gap, you can ask for someone else to be assigned to the team. You also figure out who is the team leader, who's the liaison between the team and the other stakeholders, who's responsible for what.
The boundaries component scopes the project and is crucial in avoiding turf wars, or midstream redirection. Team consultant Donald Bodwell says, the team and everyone else needs to know the size of the sandbox the team will be playing in. The charter, signed by a senior level sponsor, serves as your hall pass if anyone were to challenge your authority to make certain decisions.
Perhaps you've been on a team where midway through the project senior leadership changes direction on you. That's frustrating, right? A good charter negates some of that and protects the team from too much scope creep. The operations section helps sort out how the team makes decisions, and how it resolves conflicts. How team members will give one another feedback, and what time commitments are expected of team members.
This section keeps the internal processes flowing smoothly. Finally, endorsement by signing the charter. Each team member symbolically commits to the contents. This psychological contract is important because you are far less likely to have a freeloader, or team members who lack commitment to your goals. So, help your team get off on the right foot take just one hour of time to craft a team charter with your new teammates.
Your solid foundation will be worth the time.
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