Does anyone have experience doing team chartering sessions?

I recently took a technical project management workshop that highly recommended performing a team charter session for every new team.

The teacher of the course said he mostly used it as a bargaining chip when team members began acting inappropriately (i.e., "I thought we all agreed in the charter that we would _____, is this new way of acting the way we want things done? do we need to change our team charter?").

Wondering if anyone here has done it before and if it added any value.

HMac's picture

BLUF - if it's just a club to be used on "misbehaving" team members ("I thought we agreed that we'd do x..."), it's not worth your time or the damage it will do to your credibility.

Thinking back on a variety of experiences, let me distill some learnings from the cases where it worked well:

- Know WHY you're chartering (Is it to increase team commitment? Is it to clarify objectes? Is it to codify behaviors? Is it because "every team needs a charter"?). Different reasons drive different approaches and outcomes.

- Know the SCOPE of what you're chartering. For example, if the goals/expected outcomes of the team are already in stone ("increase productivity by 5% / increase sales revenues in new accounts by 30%"), then obviously you're going to charter about HOW you're going to get there, and don't get sidetracked by discussions of what the goal is, whether it's a fair or realistic goal, etc.

- Ensure that team members have LOTS and LOTS of opportunity for input in those areas they CAN control (team processes, individual behaviors, milestones, updates).

- Encourage frank and candid talk about how to confront behaviors that don't accord with the charter; talk about how to ensure the team stays on track with its objectives - and how to raise concerns when it appears to not be making its objectives.

- Don't expect everyone to speak up. But at the same time, make sure to coax out all the objections and concerns. Things that go unsaid can sink you in the long run.

- "Give the concrete time to dry" - even when you think you have the charter nailed, give everybody one more chance to step away, consider, and revise it one more time. This is a great way to make sure you haven't missed anything.

- Use the damned thing! Refer to it in correspondence with the team. Post it. Talk about it at your meetings. The worst thing you can do is to "put it away on the shelf" - everyone will forget about it.

- After a fair amount of time (say, six months) revisit the chrater and tweak it if the group thinks it can be improved.

hans111384's picture

Thanks for the input Hugh, all along the same lines that I was thinking.

HMac's picture

Glad to be of help. Keep us posted about what you do, with what results.

jhack's picture

One of the great things about well-crafted project plans is that they identify clearly Who is going to do What by When.

Done this way, you have clear performance criteria. And the conversations are then focused on your shared goals rather individual transgressions.

Inappropriate behavior (like yelling or refusing to provide status updates) doesn't need to be codified. This is basic professionalism and can be handled by feedback, coaching, etc.


BJ_Marshall's picture
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It sounds like what you're after are ground rules. If so, check out the MT podcasts on running effective meetings.

In a project management sense, charters are used to formally authorize a project and document initial requirements to meet expectations, not set ground rules for meetings.


dad2jnk's picture

I agree with John. In my experience, a concise charter clearly gives answers to who, what, when. It also articulates the primary drivers and identifies the principle issues to overcome in the project.

To me, they are best when only one page. I use it as the first slide in all of my project meetings - before status reports - to focus the team on the real issues at hand. My rule is that if it doesn't directly impact the charter (who what when), then take it off-line.

For long term projects, we also evaluate the charter quarterly to ensure we have updated the timelines, drivers and issues.

Good luck!

All the best, Ken

hans111384's picture

Sounds like I grabbed the wrong nugget out of the team chartering description...

I agree that having clear expectations of who is responsible for what is the key thing. I think that's the main thing that leads to anger, dissapointment, etc. among the human race: when reality doesn't match expectations.

dad2jnk: I also love the idea of reviewing the big picture as first item in every meeting; too frequently I've found everyone is eager to dive into the topic of the day without remembering what the final goal is, in an effort to "get the meeting over with."

hans111384's picture

I should have done this before.

Just dug up my notes from the course. It should be noted that this section was different from the section on "Project Charters." This is strictly a team dynamics/interaction management tool. I will put up my notes from the "Project Charter" section in another thread.

Lecture Slide:
Team Building
-Team Chartering
___-"The process of building the charter builds the team more than having
____the charter."
___-Charter is a point of reference to monitor team performance
___-Review charter (Blanchard Tools)
-Communication Plans
___-Review elements of plan
___-How will you communicate with each other
______-Email, phone, face-to-face, etc.?
______-Frequency, expected response times, etc.
-Great Agendas and Meeting Documentation
___-Road maps to time together and agreement to time well invested and
______spent together
___- +/- frequently is good sense check