A team charter is a written document that defines the team's mission, scope of operation, objectives, time frame, and consequences. Charters can be developed by top management and presented to teams, or teams can create their own charters and present them to top management. Either way the top management's endorsement of a team's charter is a critical factor in giving the team the direction and protection it needs to succeed. Teams need to know what top management expects of them, but just as important is the idea that non-team members need to know what top-management expects of the team. A charter can be thought of as a hunting license granted by the appropriate level of management. From time to time, the team may need to show its license to non-team members, particularly middle managers, so that it is clear to all that the team has the authority, permission, and blessing of the necessary level of management to operate, conduct research, consider and implement any changes needed to achieve the expected team results.
The team charter begins with a Purpose Statement. This is a one or two line statement explaining why the team is being formed. The purpose statement should align with and support the organization's vision and mission statements.
Next the charter lays down the objectives the team is expected to achieve. Objectives should always be stated in measurable terms. It may be that there are currently no measures being made on the performance dimension the team is being asked to achieve. If this is the case, the team may be asked to develop those measures itself, including current benchmark measures. It is critical to the success of a high performance team that it be told what to achieve and not how to achieve it. To some extent, how will perhaps be limited to the resources available to the team. Nevertheless, much support, enthusiasm and energy are lost, when a team is told how to achieve its objectives.
The next section of the charter defines the scope of the team's charter. This is the opportunity to define organizational or operational boundaries within which the team is expected and allowed to operated. Defining boundaries is crucial in the matter of avoiding energy draining and time delaying turf wars. The team and everyone else needs to know the size of the sand-box the team will be playing in. This section might also contain information about the resources available to the team to accomplish its objectives. It might also speak about the time commitment expected of team members and the need to continue to support their day-to-day responsibilities.
Finally, a good charter might contain a section describing top management's support and commitment to the team. This is important because many team members will feel that they are taking personal risk by becoming a member of the team.
Copyright (C) 1996-2002, Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.