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Team Charter: What is it With Examples

No matter what type of environment you work in, teamwork always comes with its challenges.

You can achieve some incredible things with a team! However, you need to make sure that you take the right approach in order for everyone to work well together and achieve common goals. This is what creating a team charter is all about.

Quite simply, a team charter is a roadmap that teams use to steer themselves in the right direction. Establishing this is a great way to boost teams’ chances of success while ensuring everyone works together efficiently.

In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about team charters. This includes a step-by-step guide on how to create a team charter, as well as team charter examples and templates you can follow.

What Is a Team Charter?

A team charter is a document that outlines the goals and direction of a team. This includes defining the team’s assets, constraints, and obstacles, as well as how the team will work and what they expect to achieve.

Team charters are very similar to product roadmaps, except they only apply to a single team.

The main focus of a team charter is the deliverables of the team, and how the team will be able to achieve this over time. Team charters are developed early on during the team’s formation. It’s important that the entire team establishes the team charter document in a group session, as buy-in is needed from each team member.

There are two main objectives of any team charter. The first is to ensure the team has a clearly defined outline of their direction and focus. The second is to illustrate the direction and focus of the team to outsiders - like external work groups or organizational leaders.

Developing a clearly defined team charter is essential for keeping the team on the right track. These documents help to reduce the risk of rework, or of team members working in the wrong direction. They also reduce any confusion about the team’s objectives, helping to get any work done right the first time around.

A team charter is a kind of road map the team follows to ensure smooth operations over time.

What Should a Team Charter Include?

A team charter should be broken down into different sections. The more detailed you make each of these sections, the more well-defined the direction and goals of the team will be.

All of the different elements must work together and align with each other to create a useful and well-planned team charter. Here is a breakdown of the different information your team charter should include.

The Team’s Purpose

The central focus of a team charter is to define the overall purpose, or goal, of the team. When establishing this, it’s important to ask yourself two questions:

  • What is the main problem the team is facing and what would the ideal outcome of solving this problem look like?
  • What kind of value will the team achieve by bringing the different people and roles together?

Establishing the value of the team and providing a clearly-defined goal is the essential first step when putting together a team charter.

Team Members

Of course, you’ll need to include a list of all team members in the team charter. Individually list the team leaders and members, outlining their roles, responsibilities, and skills. You can also list alternate team members.

After the team lists, assign the team sponsor from the leadership group. The team list is important for defining the team, providing recognition, and clearly establishing the team’s commitments.

Project Scope

It’s critical that the team establishes a realistic project scope. This helps to define the start and finish of the team’s spectrum, and identify what tasks are required within the scope.

An important part of doing this is identifying any tasks outside of the scope, which reduces scope creep.

Identifying the scope of the team’s purpose helps to set parameters for the team. Even if this is just a rough guideline, it helps team members figure out exactly how large the task ahead of them is, which is important for establishing how they will tackle it.

Timeline

The team needs to have a clearly defined time commitment in place. Documenting the amount of time a team spends working together is important, as this allows the team charter to clearly outline what needs to be achieved and when.

Having a time frame in place is necessary for being able to easily put the team’s objectives into action.

When establishing time commitments, you might find that the team’s needs require more time than the meeting schedule of the team can meet. This is why it’s important to also establish the amount of weekly or monthly time the team will be able to dedicate to the tasks.

The Desired Goal

Similar to the team’s purpose that you initially established, you also need to lay out a clear goal for them. This is the ideal result that the team wants to achieve. Setting this up is all about starting the team charter off with the end in mind.

A key part of establishing the team’s desired result is also establishing smaller goals for individual team members.

The sponsor will generally establish these goals for the team to achieve.

As with any type of goal setting, the goals need to be clearly defined and actionable. Using a SMART goal framework is important. Setting up clearly defined goals makes the magnitude of the team’s work very clear.

Required Resources

What supporting resources are required for the team to achieve its purpose? This will often involve additional people and skills outside of the established team.

Figure out what skills and resources are required for each goal and task the team needs to perform, and list these.

This could include equipment, travel arrangements, meeting rooms, software, and more. Establishing this is necessary for guiding collaboration outside of the team, as well as for establishing a budget for the team.

Deliverables and KPIs

Once the team’s goals have been established, the next step is to define the team’s outputs. This is because you can’t have successful goals without attaching KPIs (key performance indicators) to them.

Establishing KPIs early on is critical. This helps you avoid immeasurable outputs and eliminate unnecessary tasks from the team’s scope.

When establishing deliverables, make sure to include any documents, long-term auditing processes, and desired behaviors that will help to verify that the correct deliverables are achieved. This is necessary for ensuring the team is on the right track to achieving its purpose.

Reporting and Communication

How will the team report on its progress?

Having a clearly established line of communication and reporting is important for the smooth operation of the team. This will generally involve establishing which higher authority (outside of the team) the team needs to report to.

The reporting plan should outline how the team will communicate with this person, and how frequently team updates must be made. Reports and communications will include topics like the progress of the team, what tasks have been completed, and any hurdles or challenges the team is facing.

What overlapping links, collaborations, and departments will the team have to work with in order to achieve its purpose?

It’s important to consider any other departments or organizations that might overlap with the team’s purpose. The team should fit this into their operations.

How To Make a Team Charter

Once you understand all of the elements above, the team can get together to map out the team charter. Use these elements to create an outline, or template, for the team charter.

You can simply create this in a regular text document, where each section is outlined in detail underneath the relevant heading. However, you could also create a team charter using a project management or visual collaboration tool, like Monday, Notion, or Miro, that includes templates for creating team charters.

Once you have the template in place, here are the basic steps you can take when putting your team charter together.

1. Collaborate

The first essential thing to understand when creating a team charter is that it needs to be a collaborative process. This important document should never be created by a single person. Instead, the entire team needs to come together to make it happen.

So, set aside enough time to get the whole team together to discuss the charter. When doing this, be sure to encourage a collaborative environment. It’s important that everyone on the team agrees with each other and decides on the different elements of the team charter together.

2. Establish the Context Of the Team

Start the meeting by establishing the general context of the team and why it exists. This should involve going over:

  • Who is the team leader?
  • Who does the team report to?
  • What kind of output are key stakeholders expecting from the team?
  • What are the individual expectations of the team members?
  • What types of skills and knowledge does each individual within the team bring?

Again, make sure that this is a collaborative process. Each team member should provide their answers and insights to these points.

3. Establish the Team’s Objective

As we’ve already outlined, a vital part of creating a team charter involves establishing the overarching vision and goals that the team aims to achieve. Figuring this out involves asking what success would look like for the team and what the team wants to achieve to add maximum value to the organization as a whole.

A good strategy here is to condense this vision into a clear and actionable mission statement. The aim of this is to succinctly outline what the team aims to achieve.

4. Create an Actionable Plan

A team charter is not just a document that outlines what a team aims to achieve and why this is important - it also needs to outline how the team will achieve this. To do this, the next step in creating a team charter is to use your team’s objective to set individual tasks, goals, milestones, and deadlines.

This step involves figuring out the details of how the team will do what it aims to achieve. The different sections involved here include covering:

  • Required resources.
  • Deliverables and KPIs.
  • Timeline.
  • Reporting.

Remember to clearly define the roles and responsibilities of each team member. Once this portion of the team charter is established, the team has an actionable roadmap it can use to work toward its main vision.

Another important element to include here is how each actionable step, or goal, will be measured and recorded. This is necessary for knowing whether the team is operating on track.

5. Get the Entire Team to Sign Off

Everyone on the team should sign off on the charter. This shows they agree with and understand the charter. It also highlights their accountability and symbolizes their commitment.

Ensuring everyone has signed a version of the team charter is all about getting everyone on the same page and making the document feel more official.

This step also ensures that all team members have familiarized themselves with the charter. This ensures a smooth transition into a new project!

6. Make it Dynamic

Once the team charter has been established, this doesn’t mean the team’s path cannot change. A good team charter is stable but can adapt to change. Markets change, organizations change, and team structures change, so the charter should be able to respond to this.

To achieve this, get the team together regularly to review the team charter and agree on any possible updates or changes that need to be made. Quarterly meetings to revisit the team charter are generally best.

Not only does this ensure the team charter stays relevant, but it also offers a great opportunity for the team to refresh themselves with the charter and ensure they’re still working in the right direction.

Without revisiting this document, a team can lose sight of its main objectives.

When To Make a Team Charter

Now you know how to create a team charter. But, when is this necessary? The simple answer to this is any time you work in a team environment. Teams of all sizes, levels, and disciplines can benefit from a well-planned team charter.

The best time to create a team charter is as soon as the team is formed. This is because team charters act as roadmaps that outline the direction the team needs to take. The earlier this direction is established, the better.

If your team is experiencing issues, like a lack of direction or unproductivity, then forming a team charter is also a great idea. Team charters should be established if a team or its organization goes through any major changes.

As mentioned earlier, team charters should be dynamic. So, while it’s always a good idea to start a team charter when the team is established, it’s also important to continually revisit and restructure the team charter over time.

Team Charters Examples

There are various ways you can create a team charter. Different types depend on what template, design, and platform you use to create the document. While all team charters generally include the same information, the way they are presented can differ significantly.

Here are some great team charter examples to help inspire you.

Simple Column Team Charter

One of the best ways to create a team charter is by using a simple column format. This team charter example covers all of the important elements in columns - like team members, core values, roles, and metrics. Each relevant block within the column is filled in with the right information.

Example of Team Charter columns

Credits: Miro

Team Board

This team charter example visually represents each element of the charter in a block, with each block creating a simple board. It’s a great way to easily address each important area of your team charter.

Team charter board example with blocks

Credits: Miro

Whiteboard Style Team Charter

Imagine putting together your team charter on a whiteboard using sticky notes. This is the general idea behind this team charter example.

You can create different colored notes for different team members, which is an easy way to facilitate collaboration.

Whiteboard-like Team charter example

Credits: Conceptboard

These three team charter examples all cover the same general information and ideas, but they’re just presented in different ways.

You can make your team charter as innovative and interactive, or as straightforward and simple as you like. Ensure that you include all of the essential information and create your team charter so that it’s easy to read and understand.

Final Thoughts

Creating a team charter can be incredibly valuable.

As long as you include the right details, it will help to keep teams operating efficiently towards the right goals. Everyone on the team will understand their responsibilities, and ensure they’re always adding value to what they do.

Make sure that this process is completed in a collaborative fashion. Also, ensure a realistic time frame is given to this process!

A well-planned team charter can make a massive difference to your productivity and workflow organization.

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