A Team Charter explains the purpose, structure, membership and ways of working for a team. Creating a Team Charter is an exercise in Team Forming and the Charter is a useful way of communicating the intentions of the team to other teams, for on-boarding new members and for alignment with business goals.
Teams need a purpose, a reason to exist. This is best expressed by a simple sentence or two that describes the team's business value proposition. Getting Team Members to write their ideas on post-it notes and then bringing together the various views, discussing their differences and similarities is an effective way of gaining shared understanding quickly. Since a well-formed team includes its Customer representatives, Business representatives and other critical stakeholder representatives a Team Mission should be well rounded for the organization as a whole.
Teams that struggle to articulate their value proposition may not be formed correctly or given the correct business goals. These teams should either be corrected or disbanded.
Structurally there are some nice ways of working out who should be in a team and what their role is. We recommend deriving a set of team functions (both long-term and tactical) from the Team Mission. The team can then look at what skills are required to deliver the functions.
A useful game for teams getting to know one another and establishing a common understanding of each other's skills and mastery is a form of "speed dating" where team members fill out a simple card about themselves with identifying information . Questions should range from "silly" questions such as favorite lightsaber color, favorite animal etc. to more factual questions such as "unusual skill" or "unusual fact". Then each critical skill should be listed in a grid ranging from novice to master so that each individual can declare their skill levels.
Cards are then mixed up and distributed randomly. The Team can then play a game to guess the identity of the card's owner. This leads to discussion over the information listed, an understanding of each other's characters and skills and how well the team collectively matches the skill requirements it has identified.
Teams need to understand how they're going to work and operate dynamically. To this end we identify a team's suppliers and customers, the needs we place on the former and the services we provide to the latter. These services should align to the team functions identified when considering the structure and fit sensibly with the Mission statement. Misalignment is an opportunity to refactor either or both.
We recommend focusing on the following functions along with any that emerge from the previous exercises:
- Production (delivery of working product)
- Communication (both internally with customers and with external stakeholders)
- Way of Working
- Buy-in to the mission and direction
- High level scope
- Changes to agreed scope
- Escalation and Bubble Up processes
To aid in understanding how teams will do these functions we might apply standards, process frameworks (such as Holistic Software Development) and/or practice libraries to the question of Production. Note that Enterprise Architecture and Organizational Governance may constrain some choices.
Communication involves understanding the team's communication channels and mechanisms. Should all external communication go through a single intermediary? Are all team members trusted to communicate with stakeholders? Understanding the available channels and how they'll be used will help avoid conflicts.
- Ways of Working
- Agreeing buy-in to mission
- Defining high level scope and change management
Since some of these decisions will have already been made implicitly during the Team Charter workshop they often form an interesting case study for the team and a mechanism to understand why they fell into the emergent decision models used so far.
The output of these activities is a written Team Charter (textual or graphical) in either a simple format as shown below or a more structured format such as a Business Model Canvas. Regardless of the output format we recommend that the Team Charter be verified with senior stakeholders and/or the community the team serves. We strongly recommend open transparent publishing of the Team Charter, especially to interacting teams.
Some blurb about what the team does – Mission statement
Assertion of rights the team assumes – Autonomy
Who the team is
Who’s in the team, what’s their ability, how do they contribute to the required skills – Structure
How the team works
Talking through the Team Charter with new members and the mechanisms used to derive the content is a useful way of on-boarding new team members into the culture of a team. Working at creating an intentional team culture is devalued if new members aren't on-boarded effectively.