What is a Team Charter and How Can You Create One to Define Your Team’s Purpose

April 8, 2023 Workhuman Editorial Team
what is a team charter to individual team members

There’s a reason “teamwork makes the dream work” has reached cliche status– because it’s true. Teamwork raises the quality of work, it makes it more efficient, and, let’s face it, more fun. But all of that is assuming the team communicates well, that they’re clear on different responsibilities, and, from the get-go, they know the end goals.

Without those elements, collaborating with others may lead to more headaches than breakthroughs. 

To ensure that teams have more breakthroughs and fewer headaches, might we recommend you use a team charter?

Team charters are guides to help you navigate the ups and downs of any project planning from start to finish.

That’s the short of it, but let’s get into the details and benefits of an effective team charter.

What is a team charter?

A team charter, also sometimes referred to as a group charter, is like a roadmap for the team. It’s basically a document to help everyone understand their roles and responsibilities.

It also highlights measurable goals, assets, and obstacles that a project team may encounter.

When everyone on the team knows the resources, roadblocks, and objectives, this paves the way for a smoother, less turbulent process. This, in turn, leads to a high-performing team and overall team success.

Even over the long term or when big transitions arise, a team charter can ease the process. As a result, team members, as well as middle and upper management, are clear on every part of the business process and the final outcome.

Why are team charters important?

The most obvious reason to create a team charter is that they give each aspect of the project clarity and direction. There’s no confusion among team members about what everyone has to do or what their job description is for that particular project.

A close second is that team charters provide team members with a sense of unity and balance while keeping the team on track.

This can be accomplished through various ways, such as celebrating employee participation via tools like Social Recognition®.

use team charters to define team’s purpose and understand team direction

Being part of a cohesive unit and working closely to meet a shared goal can be a great way to increase accountability while enhancing the company culture, performance, and feedback.

Not only is a team charter often referred to as the “north star” of product development, but it’s also a living, breathing part of the business.

As such, it should be allowed to grow and develop organically just as the organization’s goals and assets grow and develop.

When should your team establish its charter?

Regardless of how big the organization is, a project team charter should always be part of the equation.

This is especially true when everyone is expected to juggle cross-functional projects. Plus, more and more people are working remotely, sometimes even in different time zones.

Add to that the unique experiences, challenges, and skill sets that everyone can bring to the team.

Therefore, one of the best practices to keep all group members on the same page and reduce confusion and repetition is to create an effective team charter.

One way to do that is through team-building and problem-solving activities. Yet, for any of these methods to work, management needs to find a way to bring everyone together first.

Ideally, this could be an off-site retreat where everyone gets to take part in non-work related team-building activities. They can spend half the time hiking, barbecuing, tossing frisbees, etc.

It doesn’t matter what the activity is; the important thing is that it’s fun and low-key. Then, the rest of the time should be spent focusing on brainstorming ideas for how to make a team charter template.

team charter example for why entire team exist

Set aside a time when everyone on the team is present and raring to go. Have the team leader walk members through the main points. This is a great opportunity to highlight key questions and answer any queries any of the members might have.

To make the most out of this planning session, the team leader should write down all responses and ideas. Saving ideas, suggestions, and recommendations during these planning sessions helps put things in perspective. Plus, it can come in handy later on as a source of reference.

How to develop your own team charter

The success of any project depends on having the group understand what their team charter roles and responsibilities are. They also need to clearly understand their mission and objectives. This is where a team charter can help.

A team project charter is usually created in a group setting, preferably during weekly team meetings. Team leaders are responsible for facilitating discussions and helping team members understand all the key points.

team members figuring out why the marketing team exists

Then, as you develop one for your new team, make sure to work through each step until everyone is in agreement and feels comfortable enough to move to the next point.

Through this process, the team can define all the important aspects of the task. These include the following five elements of a team charter template.

1. The purpose of the team

Start by narrowing down the team mission statement as a way of capturing everyone’s idea of what the team should strive to be. This part of the charter should include which values define the group.

  • Decide on the type of team it will be.
  • What the team is responsible for accomplishing.
  • Which shared values define the team.
  • What decisions can be made within the team and which can be made outside it?
  • The context in which the team will operate.

2. The context in which the team will operate

The next step is for everyone to get a better understanding of how the team fits into the big picture of the organization as a whole.

  • Who is the team accountable to?
  • Which other groups does this team connect to and interact with?
  • What skillsets define this team and set it apart from the others?

3. Team charter roles

team charter board using a free team charter template every team member can refer to

Working for a company that prioritizes team-building is great. Yet, no matter how great the organization may be, employees can’t succeed without each member knowing who and what is included and what’s not, especially those working remotely.

  • Who is on the team?
  • What perspective does each one bring to this new team?
  • Do any members have special roles that help define the team charter and its objectives?
  • Are there any sub-groups within the team? And, if there are, what do they need to get the job done?

4. Team goals

Once all members of the team know what they’re supposed to be doing, the team leader should clarify which tasks they want to include.

This should be done in a group setting or maybe even after participating in a team-building activity for large groups where everyone’s input is taken into account.

  • What are the results expected from the efforts of the group?
  • Which achievable goals will the team’s focus be directed towards?
  • What outcomes is the team striving for? What are its KPIs and deliverables?
  • What does every team member’s idea of success look like?

5. Work processes

Now that all the major points have been discussed and highlighted, it’s time to collaborate on the best way to implement all the steps and outline how to achieve each milestone.

  • What process will the team use to achieve the work?
  • What are the team’s expectations around the step-by-step process of meeting the objective?
  • How often will the team meet?
  • How will team members communicate with each other and with middle and upper management?
  • Which team member will manage the team agenda?
  • How will the team connect with company stakeholders and other sponsors?

What are the benefits of a team charter?

Sometimes, it’s easier to look at a successful organization and think that creating a team charter isn’t worth the effort. Yet, even in the most successful companies, a team charter can be a huge advantage to everyone involved.

Check out some other benefits of learning how to make a team charter template.

Sets the tone for transparent workflow

One of the benefits of the team charter is that all team members have agreed on how to approach the task at hand to build a culture of trust and transparency.

There are team-building kits available that allow team leaders to optimize workflow and ensure team collaboration with a clear alignment of goals.

It’s also a handy guide to have in case the team veers off course or digresses. They can refer back to the team charter and retrace their steps to find out where they went wrong and why.

Defines employee roles and responsibilities

team’s mission statement in project charters to outline team purpose and define day to day operations

Employees are more productive when they have a clearly defined set of guidelines to follow. Team charters can provide them with that.

They also come in handy when preparing questions for remote workers and team-building activities.

Hence, they reduce the risk of any miscommunication or confusion as to who should do what. Having all the tasks explained in detail prevents any of them from being done twice or, worse, not getting done at all.

Identifies where support will come from

The development of ideas and products is a team effort. Employees regularly require practical help or financial support from other departments, teams, management, or stakeholders.

Writing a team charter can bring these needs to the forefront and allocate the necessary funds and support.

Increases the chance of success

The net result of all the benefits above is that the team has a better chance of accomplishing what they set out to do.

As members come and go, you should take the time to update your team charter. It’s a quick and effective way to improve the onboarding of new team members.

This would be a great opportunity to send team appreciation messages and boost rapport via online tools, such as Workhuman’s Social Recognition®. Reaching out is a great way to help everyone feel appreciated and valued.

Why do agile teams need a team charter?

Agile teams work in a structured and meticulous process where they break down each project into more manageable chunks. As a result, the work becomes more transparent and, ultimately, easier to change when the need arises.

This type of product management is flexible enough to adapt to almost all industries. It’s best suited for industries that develop products in constant need of streamlining. These typically include products like medical devices, makeup formulations, pharmaceuticals, and software.

To help keep up with these upgrades, agile teams can benefit from the use of a team charter template. In fact, one of the first steps in implementing agile project management is to create a roadmap, aka a team charter.

One way to support the development of agile performance as flexible work becomes one of the top priorities for employees is Workhuman’s Conversations®. This tool can provide structured feedback while boosting communication and connection between employees, mentors, and peers.

Learn more about the importance of transparency and frequent check-ins in this white paper, “Performance in the Future of Work.”

Read it now!

Final thoughts

Team charters are a powerful tool for improving team collaboration and achieving success. By establishing clear goals, defining roles, and increasing accountability, team charters can guide both cross-functional and agile teams to success.

Whether you’re working with a remote team or in person, creating a team charter can help ensure that everyone is on the same page and working towards the same objectives.

So, if you want to enhance work quality, boost profitability, and increase employee engagement, consider creating a team charter in 2023.

Team Building