Team Charters


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All program managers need to strategically choose program communication processes. Unfortunately, technology has complicated the decision-making process for program managers, providing a myriad of methods for communication. Because there are so many choices, confusion often results. Our ability to extract value from technological advances in communication methods lags the rate at which new methods are created.

Our 5 part Guide to Program Communication Processes will ensure your program and project communication is streamlined and helps you achieve strategic goals.

Part 1 of 5: Notifiership
Part 2 of 5: Program Meetings
Part 3 of 5: Team Charters
Part 4 of 5: Virtual and Global Teams
Part 5 of 5: Program Presentation Basics

Part 3 of 5: Program Communication Processes – Team Charters

The team charter minimizes resentment and animosity by defining the rules of engagement for the team up front. It does this by normalizing expectations for the team. Once the charter is developed and agreed on by the team members, all the team members sign it. This creates psychological pressure to comply with the elements of the charter. Note that the team charter is not a project charter, although at the discretion of the project manager it could be a subset of the project charter.

Key Elements of a Team Charter

The team charter usually contains the following elements:
1. Decision processes. How will the team make decisions? Will the team use consensus decision making? Will democracy be used as a decision-making method? Or will the team leader make the decisions after hearing input from all the team members? Democracy and consensus can be risky because everyone does not bring the same level of experience to the table. One should realize, though, that having the team leader make decisions works only when the leader genuinely listens to all team members and is not applicable to all cultures. You can’t fake listening, and each team member must have the opportunity to speak and be heard. Whatever decision processes the team decides to use, you need to document it in the charter and obtain buy-in from the team.

2. Meetings. Details of the way meetings should be conducted.

3. E-mail. The team’s method of choice for e-mail use can be defined here.

4. Conflict resolution. The process for resolving conflicts within the team should be defined up front, and the team charter is a good place to document this process. Defining the conflict resolution process ahead of time, including the steps to escalate unresolved conflicts, often reduces resentment and actually helps resolve conflicts more quickly.

5. Crisis management. In every company and program, things happen, such as blackouts, winter storms, hurricanes, or even injuries to fellow team members. How this news reaches the team and the corresponding actions the team should follow must be predefined. Doing so ensures that the team stays on track (or goes off track very little) no matter what happens.

6. Feedback processes. The team charter can assure that the team leader and team members will give each other verbal feedback at every major milestone or every two months (or another appropriate period) in the absence of a major milestone.

7. After-hours communication. In today’s technologically driven environment, we have 24-hour access to communication methods. Therefore, the team leader should establish criteria for the team that define when a team member is not at work.

8. Professionalism. A lack of professional demeanor can be detrimental to a team because it can cause resentment and lack of respect for the leader when it is allowed to persist. People will perceive the leader as not being in control. The team charter can reduce a lot of these types of issues.

9. Personnel turnover. What will the team do if a team member leaves? The team charter paves the way for sharing the additional workload resulting from the loss of a team member if the team members agree.

Periodically review the team charter to ensure its validity and to find improvement opportunities. The team charter works best when it is not imposed on the team but created with the team.

Once your team has decided on their plan and process, PPM software can help you execute that process. WorkOtter helps you successfully execute your program process strategy for project success. Get a demo of WorkOtter and see how we can make your program management effective.

“The Handbook of Program Management: How to Facilitate Project Success with Optimal Program Management, Second Edition” by James T. Brown is a copyrighted work of McGraw-Hill and McGraw-Hill reserves all rights in and to the Content. ©2014 by McGraw-Hill Education. Purchase the book on Amazon.