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Natalia Rossingol

What is a Team Charter? The Complete Guide

Teams have the potential to be greater than the sum of their parts, so get everyone aligned and working well together with a team charter.

It’s a common knowledge that a team is more than a sum of individuals – it’s a living organism that constantly evolves. And while movement and change are good things, this also means the interaction between team members might be chaotic at times.

To direct team efforts to the right place, some rules and guiding principles need to be established.

There is a great tool that will help coordinate the activity of a team, and it’s called a team charter. It ensures that every single person on a team knows what to do, why, and when - this way creating cohesion and driving success.

In this article, we will discuss what team charters are and how to create one to improve team collaboration.    

What is a team charter?

A team charter is a document that outlines a team’s shared goals, values, and strategies. Its function is to align the efforts of all team members to help them become a high-performing team and achieve a common vision.

In a way, a team charter is a blueprint that contains all the necessary information for a team to work together coherently, at the same time being a visual guidance that team members can refer to anytime.

It’s important to remember that a team charter is not the same as a project charter. A team charter is about teams, which means it can determine their collaboration on more than one project. A project charter, on the contrary, describes the requirements for one specific project.  

What is the purpose of a team charter?

Again, the main purpose of a team charter is to create team alignment and provide clarity for all the key stakeholders in terms of their collaboration. This is achieved through:

  • Specifying a shared vision, goals, and objectives that define why the team exists and what exactly it tries to achieve.
  • Improving communication, as it includes a straightforward communication plan.
  • Establishing quality standards and norms of behavior.
  • Increasing accountability, since it determines everyone’s roles.
  • Outlining a conflict resolution plan. 

The benefits of having a team charter

A team charter is a great management tool that makes a team's collaborative process much easier and more effective, ensuring project success. In particular, it offers the following benefits: 


Transparency, which is the principle of openness and honesty, is a relatively new trend in business. However, its power is inarguable. By sharing information, leadership demonstrates high levels of trust, and this creates positive team dynamics: people start to feel like a valued part of the team, which encourages them to contribute more, and that inevitably leads to better results.

Besides, when roles are crystal clear, it’s impossible to avoid responsibility – and this also motivates people to do their best and not to let their teams down. This increases accountability.

Clarity and structure

Team charters ensure that all team members, leadership, and customers have a clear understanding of what they work on, why, and what is their final destination. Containing every detail of team collaboration, it can be used as a road sign that will not let anyone get off track.  

Better team management

For managers, a team chart is a treasure. This document lets them perform all the 4 management functions – planning, organizing, leading, and controlling.

There is no need to spend long hours developing separate plans for each of these functions right in the middle of the collaborative process – it’s overwhelming and not productive. You specify everything one time in the beginning, and then the chart works for you and your team.

Team charter examples

There is no universal team charter to be used by everyone. Charters can vary based on the projects. However, we can still outline the basic elements of a team charter that make it really effective:

  1. Mission and objectives: What is the purpose of your team? What results do you wish to achieve? How do you see success?   
  2. Roles and responsibilities: What is everyone on the team expected to do?
  3. Resources: What is your budget? How do you allocate your resources?
  4. Workflow: What are your schedules and timelines? What are the milestones and deliverables?
  5. Performance assessment: How are you going to measure progress? What are the criteria for success?
  6. Communication rules: What are the communication channels, with whom you communicate, and how often?
  7. Conflict resolution: How do you behave in a conflict situation? What are the strategies to resolve a conflict?
  8. Signatures: The area in the document where team members leave their signatures, this way proving that they have read it and agree with the information contained in it.

To create a team charter, you can use a ready-made team charter template that would cover all the basics but can still be expanded, giving you a chance to attach more fields.

How to make a team charter

First of all, we should say that the very name “team charter” indicates that the entire team is supposed to participate in its development – both to provide important insights and to reach a buy-in.

Let’s discuss how to make a team charter based on the fields we mentioned in the section above.

how to make a team charter

Step 1: Describe the project background

Before outlining any details, you should start with the fundamentals – deciding who is going to be involved. At this point, you have to identify all the stakeholders, as well as the team leader. Then, you should analyze what other groups your team will interact with and how exactly this interaction will happen. This will help people see how they fit in the bigger context.

Step 2: Identify the team's mission statement

Once you’ve chosen the people to work as a team, it’s time to explain why this team is being built. This will direct the efforts and give team members some motivation. For a good team charter, you should:

  • Develop a vision. Think about what you would like to see in the future, imagining a perfect picture of success. Why is your work important? What results do you want to achieve – better quality, higher speed, innovation, quantity, or reduced costs? What is success, and what is a failure? What results can be considered good enough? Make your descriptions vivid and inspiring.
  • Define your values. Values are beliefs or principles that would constitute a psychological core of your group, like trust, honesty, or kindness. While it may seem that values have nothing to do with the actual results, they determine the ambiance of the work environment and can significantly impact productivity.
  • State the team's purpose. As Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras mentioned in their book "Built to Last", a purpose is “a fundamental reason of being” that reflects team members’ “idealistic motivations for doing the work.” It directs every decision, guiding people like a star.
  • To be inspiring, a purpose should be presented as an opportunity – an opportunity to make a change and create something worthy.
  • Define the team's objectives. These are specific and measurable steps a team must take to reach a desired result.

Step 3: Define roles and responsibilities

By clearly stating in a team charter who does what, you kill two birds with one stone: first, every person will understand what is expected from them, and what is not; and second, this will eliminate a chance of confusion when people take on more (or less) work than they have to, which might lead to resentment.

Besides, since everybody will get a copy of the team charter, the roles and responsibilities field will let them see what other people are in charge of – so in case they need information, updates, or a subject-matter opinion, they will know whom to talk to. This, in particular, will also be of great help to new team members.

Step 4: Estimate your resources

This field of team charters concerns the budget and any other resources, like materials or technology, the team needs to reach the goals. Here you need to create a budget plan, allocate resources, and also think of possible ways of how to reduce costs.   

This requires you to consider the following:

  • Do you have all the necessary tools and finances to complete your tasks?
  • Do you need external resources, like additional personnel and materials?
  • How do you access the resources?   

To estimate your budget, you can use different methods:

  1. Analogous estimating. Use your experience and analyze how much expenses were spent on similar projects in the past.
  2. Top-down estimating. A budget is already provided from the top, and the team decides how to allocate it to the tasks.
  3. Bottom-up estimating. A team estimates how many resources they will need, and request them from the organization.
  4. Three-point estimating. You determine three possible scenarios regarding your resources – optimistic, pessimistic, and realistic. This method is combined with either a top-down or bottom-up approach, and it’s very useful as it allows you to analyze the possibility of uncertainty.

➡️ Related: How to Create a Project Budget Without Opening Excel

Step 5: Determine your workflow

A workflow is a sequence of all the steps you need to take to reach your goals, from the beginning till the end. To determine a workflow, you should identify a project’s start and endpoint, list the steps required to take, decide if these steps need to take place in a specific order (and if yes, identify the order,) and outline a schedule and milestones that would create a sense of urgency.

Workflows provide clarity and reduce inefficiency, which is especially helpful if team members are involved in more than one project.

Step 6: Conduct performance assessment

The performance of team members must be conducted throughout the project (or during the time a group works together as a team.) The assessment criteria needs to be presented in the beginning, so that people understand what outcomes they’re expected to provide, who will be assessing them, and how exactly this process will occur.

As a part of the assessment, a team leader could also include peer-to-peer feedback – to ensure that everyone can voice their opinion and provide a perspective. This unofficial feedback might be subjective, yet it will help people cooperate and make informed decisions.

Step 7: Establish the rules of communication

The effectiveness of communication in a team is, without any exaggeration, the key to teamwork success. For this reason, it’s important to establish clear rules for everybody to follow.

While working on these rules, make sure to consider such communication aspects as:

  • Communication chains. Who is supposed to talk to whom, when delivering information or asking for feedback?
  • The methods of communication. These include team meetings (real or virtual), email, phone etc. It’s important to decide which method works best for each particular situation.
  • The frequency of communication. How often do team members have to communicate with one another, leadership, or clients?

We should point out that communication in a team exists in two closely interconnected dimensions. The first one is work-related communication, and the second one is personal interactions. If team members treat each other respectfully, they would develop a healthy relationship, which would improve the quality of their work. That’s why a team should develop a code of conduct that would ensure respectful communication.

Step 8: Make the rules of conflict resolution

In any team, conflicts are inevitable. Having different experiences and backgrounds, people will disagree with each other, as their ideas and views will not always coincide.

However, conflicts do not have to be destructive. In fact, they can be a catalyst for team development and a great way of finding the best solution possible. But for a conflict to be productive, it’s necessary to follow specific rules, like:

  • Focusing on the issue at hand - not on blaming the people involved
  • Showing empathy instead of defending one’s ego
  • Practicing active listening and asking questions to reach a mutual understanding
  • Being candid yet respectful
  • Developing psychological safety for every person to be able to speak up

Step 9: Add signatures

Once the team discussed every field in the team chart and agreed with it, each team member can sign the document, proving they have read it and are ready to follow the prescriptions.


Team charters are incredibly helpful tools for project planning that contribute to team cohesion and success. By creating this document, you make sure everyone is on the same page, and your team runs like clockwork.

It sets the team direction, reduces the chance of error, improves communication, and leads everyone to a single goal, helping people overcome obstacles with ease.

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