The Team Charter: The Foundation of Team Formation

A great foundation for team-formation training is the team charter. A team charter is “the rules of the game.” Everyone involved in the team needs to agree with and abide by the rules.

Here are the important sections of a team charter and a bit of explanation and rationale:

TEAM NAME: What will the team call itself? This is a great opportunity for some creativity and team identity (e.g. Bill and the Cover Girls – a team that puts the covers on production boxes).

TEAM MISSION (What / Why): Why was the team formed? What is the business rationale?

TEAM AUTHORITY BOUNDARIES (What / Why): What is the team authorized to do? … not do? What are the interfaces to other teams? How far can the team go?

TEAM WORK PRODUCTS (What / When): What are the expected work products or deliverables of the team (e.g. Strategic Plan)? The use of SMART goals format helps. Develop a project plan (Scope, Schedule, Cost, Risk).

TEAM PERIOD OF PERFORMANCE (When): What is the team’s period of performance? Include intermediate milestones and deliveries.

TEAM SPONSOR (Who): Who chartered the team? Who formed the team? To whom does the team report (and when)?

TEAM OPERATING PRINCIPLES (Where / When / Why / How):

AGENDA: An agenda and read-ahead material will be published at least one week prior to each meeting. A parking lot will be used for off-agenda items.

ATTENDANCE: Team members will attend all meetings. Planned absences will be reported to the team lead at least one month prior to the scheduled meeting. Absence due to illness or other emergency should be reported to the team lead as soon as possible.

COMMUNICATIONS: Communications on the business of the team should include all members and the facilitator (e.g. cc). bcc is considered a deceitful practice.

DECISION-MAKING: Decisions will be reached using consensus (decision made = it’s the team’s decision and everyone stands behind it). Disagreement must be explained in a business-like manner. When necessary, the team lead will overcome deadlocks, with the rules of consensus persisting. Non-members can provide input but only members make decisions for the team.

LEADER RESPONSIBILITIES: Team meetings are run by the lead with assistance of the facilitator. If deemed necessary, the Team Lead has the authority to discharge a team member.

LOCATION OF MEETINGS: Team meetings will be held at a location to be determined by the Team Lead. Most meetings will be held via telephone. One in-person collaborative meeting will be held.

MEETING NORMS: Electronic devices should be placed into a “vibrate” mode or turned off. Critical calls should be minimized and taken outside the team meeting room. Sidebar conversations should not be held during team meetings. Share your thoughts on the current discussion with the team. Ideas should be addressed.  Do not allow discussions to get personal.

MEMBER RESPONSIBILITIES: Team members agree to complete all homework and additional items as requested.

MINUTES: Minutes of meeting will be published within 48 hours after a meeting. The minutes will include action items and homework.

PROBLEM SOLVING: A Five-Step Problem Solving method will be used.

PROCESS: The primary process to be used by the team.

QUORUM: A quorum will be defined as at least half of the members in attendance. The leader must be in attendance. If the lead must be absent, then the team will be notified, prior to the meeting, who will run the meeting.

TEAM MEMBERSHIP (Who): Who are the members of the team? Who do they represent? What part of the organization?

TEAM SUPPLIERS / INPUT (Who): Who are the suppliers of the team? What inputs do they provide?

TEAM CUSTOMERS (Who): Who are the customers of the team? Who receive the team’s output?

CHARTER APPROVALS (Who): Who needs to approve the team charter (e.g. The team members; the sponsor; critical stakeholders, suppliers, or customers)? Just because the team likes it doesn’t mean that the sponsor’s needs are met.

The team charter is one of those things that many teams or sponsors believe they don’t need. Of course, that disbelief stands, right up until the team encounters problems in its operations. The team locks up, without something to fall back on. Then, they want to know what are the rules and the details of what they are supposed to deliver.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Mr. Czerniak retired after a successful career that culminated in fifteen years of experience as an internal consultant and “change agent.”  He is currently an Expert-in-Residence at the Macomb-Oakland University Incubator and a volunteer with other clients.

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