Have you ever experienced conflict on a team? Friction and disagreements happen pretty frequently and, in most cases, they all tie back to the same thing: misunderstandings and miscommunications.
Somebody didn't realize something was their responsibility. Somebody didn't understand the norms of the group. Somebody did something out of turn and messed up the workflow.
Wouldn't it be nice if you and your team had one single source of truth you could use to align your expectations? That's exactly what a team charter is. A team charter is a document that spells out the nuts and bolts of your team — whether it's a formal department or a team that was assembled for a specific project.
Some project charters are short and simple, acting almost as a straightforward directory of the team members. Others are more complex and dig deep into the team's core values, norms, processes, and other elements that help the team work together effectively.
Regardless of whether it's one page or 10 pages, a team charter serves the same purpose: It's essentially the roadmap for a team, bringing them back to the most important details of who they are and how they function — which can easily get lost in the hustle and bustle of the actual work.
What is the purpose of a team charter for project management?
Many people create team charters for their departments or work teams — and there's a lot of value in doing so. Having a team charter for your department:
- Clearly outlines roles, responsibilities, and other important information
- Rallies the team around a shared goal or purpose
- Reduces confusion and miscommunications
- Improves onboarding of any new team members
All of those are true when you use a team charter for a specific project team too. However, a charter for a project team could arguably be even more important
Particularly for cross-functional projects that involve pulling team members from disparate departments, the team charter is what gives them a shared understanding of how they'll work together. When all of their departments typically have their own norms, expectations, and approaches, the team charter unites them with a shared understanding right from the get-go.
Additionally, a team charter used in project management will likely spell out more details related to the actual project (and not just the team makeup), such as the budget and resources, workflows, and success metrics.
To put it simply, the point of a team charter in project management is to ensure all relevant team members understand what they need to do in order to achieve the ultimate goal: delivering a successful final project.
What are the benefits of creating a team charter?
The above section already gave a bit of a sneak peek at some of the key benefits of a team charter. But let's dig into each of those advantages of a team charter.
Clearly outline roles and responsibilities
You might think that a job title is enough clarity, but that's usually not true — especially on project teams where people aren't as familiar with the strengths and expertise of the people they're working with.
Who's the best person to approach to get the data they need? Who should they talk to if they need feedback?
A team charter explicitly outlines every single member on the team, their role or title, and what their responsibilities are. That ensures everybody understands their own expectations and contributions, as well as what everybody else around them is doing. That gives them a more holistic understanding of the team and how they fit in — which is especially important when so many teams are now remote or hybrid.
Rally the team around a shared goal or purpose
Teams need to have their sights set on the same horizon and that's another key benefit of a team charter. It spells out the team's objective so there's no debate about what everybody is working toward.
If you're creating a team charter for a department or long-standing team (for example, a customer support team), the objective you put on your team charter might look something like this:
Deliver prompt, helpful, and unmatched service and support to our customers.
If you're creating a charter for a team that was assembled for a one-time project, then your objective will likely go beyond explaining the purpose of the team itself and also encompass the goal of completing the project. Here's an example:
Redesign our customer knowledge base to make it a comprehensive and intuitive destination for troubleshooting and self-service.
Either way, the team charter sets the north star for your team — everybody understands exactly what they're working toward.
Reduce confusion and miscommunications
When you explicitly state what you're working toward and how each team member plays a part in getting there, confusion (and as a result, the potential for crossed wires) is already greatly reduced.
But your team charter can take clarity even further by spelling out norms and expectations, outlining workflows, hashing out budgets and resources, and more.
Put simply, everything that makes your team and project tick is right there on paper. Everybody is operating with the same information and understanding from the outset — reducing miscommunications, frustration, and resentment down the line.
Improve the onboarding of any new team members
Maybe your team has made a new (or a couple of new) hires. Or perhaps you need to bring in another contributor or even a freelancer to help with the project you're working on.
When you bring them onboard, you can send them your team charter. It'll serve almost as a user manual that helps them quickly get up to speed on who does what and how your team generally operates.
Oh, and when you bring on somebody new? Don't forget to add them to your team charter too.
How to create a team charter: Eight steps to follow
You're sold on the benefits of a team charter and you're ready to create one for your own team. Here are eight steps to follow to pull it together.
1. Cover the basics
The top of your team charter is the easiest part. It's where you'll write down basic information like:
- Your team's name (if you have one)
- Your team's leader
- The date your charter was created
- The date your charter was last updated
Those are important details for people to know up front. Plus, including the dates helps with version control of your document when your charter inevitably needs to change.
2. Define your team's purpose
Here's the first question you need to ask yourself: Why does your team exist?
Do you offer a distinct service? Fulfill a specific function? Are you completing a certain project?
This could be a simple statement — or it could be several bullet points or statements explaining your team's objective and how that feeds larger business goals.
Regardless of how much detail you provide, this section of your team charter should give everybody a clear idea of the purpose behind your team.
EXAMPLE GOAL OR PURPOSE: We will design and create a new customer service knowledge base that will launch in Q2 of 2023.
3. State your core values
Your goal is an important uniting force for your team. However, there are other expectations and shared beliefs that will dictate how you work together.
Those are your core values. Listing them on your team charter helps everybody get a sense of what's important to your team. And, when they work to embody those values, collaboration is smoother — and conflicts are minimized.
EXAMPLE CORE VALUES:
- Be honest and accountable
- Empower and respect others
- Maintain a growth mindset
- Communicate proactively and transparently
4. Establish your roles and responsibilities
Your team is at the center of your team charter. Consider this section the "who's who" where you list out the different team members and their roles or titles.
This section that focuses on people can be as detailed as you'd like it to be. Some people leave it as a straightforward list while others dig into team members' responsibilities, strengths, weaknesses, availability, and other information about group members.
- Safiya, Head of Customer Support/Team Leader
- Timothy, Customer Support Specialist
- Beverly, Customer Support Specialist
- Joshua, Content Writer and Editor
- MaryBeth, Graphic Designer
- Jose, Web Developer
5. Determine your norms and expectations
There are a ton of different norms, patterns, and behaviors that regulate how you and your team work together — whether they're spoken or not.
Maybe everybody automatically knows to keep themselves on mute during Zoom meetings unless they're the one speaking. Or perhaps everybody understands that Slack is used for quick requests and personal chatter, while meatier information should go in an email or in Wrike.
It's tempting to take those for granted as widely-accepted and inherent truths. But what about if somebody new joins the team? They should have insight into the various expectations, routines, and rituals. That's why it's worth spelling out your most important ones directly in your team charter.
- We practice active listening by summarizing what someone has shared with us
- We don't interrupt other people in meetings
- We post and share anything relevant to our projects in Wrike and not in siloed channels
6. Define your project workflow
These next few sections of your team charter can vary, depending on whether you're creating a charter for your department or you're creating a charter for a team that was pulled together for a particular project.
If you're creating a charter for your department or a longer-standing team, then you can use this section to spell out your typical workflow for new work.
If you're creating a charter for a specific project, then this section can be more detailed and briefly outline some of the phases, deliverables, and timeline of your assigned project. Much like any other section of the charter, you have flexibility here to create something that works best for you.
EXAMPLE PROJECT WORKFLOW:
- Receive a work request through our team's request form
- Team leader investigates and approves or denies the project
- Approved projects are discussed in a project kickoff meeting
7. Set your success metrics
Again, this is another section that varies based on the context of your team charter. You might use this to establish the success metrics for your entire team or you might use it to lay out what success looks like for a specific project.
Either way, try to be as specific as possible. The goal you set earlier in your team charter provides a lot of unity and clarity — but people also need to be on the same page about what success ultimately looks like.
EXAMPLE SUCCESS METRICS:
- Deliver 85% of our projects on time and under budget
- Receive at least a four out of five rating on our employee engagement scores
8. Explain your budget and resources
When creating a charter for a project team, you can use this section to quickly highlight your finances and available resources. Don't feel the need to get too detailed here — a lot of the in-depth information will be included in your project plans. But a brief overview is helpful context for the entire team.
When creating a charter for your department, it's tougher to get nitty-gritty about the actual budget or resources, as they can vary widely.
Instead, you can use this section to explain your typical approach to budgeting, how resources are allocated or approved, and other general information about how these processes typically work.
EXAMPLE BUDGET AND RESOURCES:
- Annual budgets are approved each December
- Project budgets are approved as needed by the team leader
- Resource needs should be discussed during project planning and kickoff
When you've completed all of that, you have your first draft of your team charter ready to go. Review it yourself and share it with your team to see if anybody has any feedback or changes.
Once it's finalized, keep it somewhere accessible so everybody can reference it when needed. And remember, this document is never actually finished. Teams change and your charter will too. Revisit it frequently to make any necessary updates as you complete projects, add team members, revise budgets, and refine your norms and expectations.
Three examples of team charters to inspire you
Need a little more creative inspiration before you put pen to paper (or your fingers to the keyboard) on your own team charter? Here are three team charter examples to get your wheels turning.
Example #1: Human resources team charter
|Team Name: Human Resources Department||Team Leader: Marie|
|Charter Created: April 18, 2020||Charter Updated: November 2, 2022|
|Team Purpose:||Supporting and developing the full potential of our staff and entire organization|
|Budget and Resources:||
Example #2: Agile team charter
|Team Name: Team Ticketing System||Team Leader: Yusif|
|Charter Created: January 8, 2022||Charter Updated: January 23, 2022|
|Team Purpose:||Launch a new customer support ticketing system within the app|
|Budget and Resources:||Sprint-to-sprint budget management|
Example #3: Blog redesign project team charter
|Team Name: Team Blog Redesign||Team Leader: Michael|
|Charter Created: November 15, 2022||Charter Updated: N/A|
|Team Purpose:||Redesign the CompanyXYZ blog to improve usability and navigation|
|Budget and Resources:||
Manage your teams and projects with Wrike
Solid teamwork doesn't automatically happen when you pull people together or assign a project. For people to work well together, they need clarity about their purpose, their roles, and their approach.
That's why a team charter is so helpful. It's a single source of truth for everybody on the team to align their expectations and set themselves up for success.
- Get visibility into everybody's work
- Clearly assign tasks, owners, and deadlines
- Centralize communication and resources
- Easily monitor progress and course correct when necessary
- Streamline and simplify your work intake process
- Save time with templates
Ready to empower your team to do their best work? Create your team charter and use Wrike to store it and manage all of your day-to-day work — while honoring those rules and expectations.