Write a team charter

Virtual First | Teamwork Kit

Why does your team exist? What’s its core purpose? High-performing teams tend to have a shared answer to this question. Use this workshop to understand what your project or core team is really here to do, and to write a shared charter that inspires your best work.

120 MINS | VIRTUAL TEAM WORKSHOP

Step 1 (pre-work): Ask “Why am I here?”

A few days before your virtual workshop, ask each member of your team to fill out the Why I’m Here worksheet. This will create a foundation for your shared charter. 
Why I'm here worksheet

Step 2: Share your personal purpose

After you’ve kicked off your virtual workshop, spend 30 minutes having each team member read aloud their answers from the Why-I’m-here worksheet (above). If your team is bigger than eight people, consider sending small subgroups into VC breakout rooms. Understanding your team members’ personal stakes in your work will make the shared charter more meaningful—so don’t be shy about going deep.

Step 3: Learn what a team charter is

Words like charter (and mission and purpose) can be mean different things to different people. So before you start writing, it’s good to think about what a team charter actually is. Pull up team charters 101 on your screen and review it together. When you’re done, discuss: Does it make sense? Did anything surprise or confuse you? 
Team charter 101

Step 4: Draft your team’s charter

Pull up the team charter worksheet on your screen so the team can see it. Then have everyone spend 15–20 minutes answering the questions individually. When they’re done, ask them to add their answers to the worksheet.
Team charter worksheet

Deep thoughts: Why are we here?

Use this worksheet to draft a team charter and purpose statement.

Team charter worksheet

Step 5: Synthesize the answers

Have your team’s best synthesizer cluster everyone’s answers into themes (for example: collaboration, stakeholder approval, ownership, decision-making). Then give each team member three “votes” to spend on whichever clusters they think are most important. For voting, you can have people show a thumbs-up, thumbs-down, or thumbs-sideways on their video screen. Or have each person place an emoji next to their top three favorites.

Step 6: Refine your charter

Return to your team charter worksheet (above) and try to refine your purpose statement together. It can be tricky to find the exact words in a group brainstorm, so aim for 75% completion. When you’re done, ask your team’s strongest editor to spiff things up after the meeting and share for approval asynchronously. As you evaluate the final product, remember that a good charter will be: 

  • Aspirational but not vague (BBC’s “To enrich people’s lives with programmes and services that inform, educate and entertain”)
  • Simple, clear, and concise (Airbnb’s “Help people belong anywhere”)
  • Unique to your team’s/company’s skill set (Lego’s “To inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow”)
  • Something you can commit to—with measurable goals, metrics, and a timeline (Tesla’s “To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy”)

Step 7: Make it easy to find

Aligning your team around a shared Aligning your team around a shared north star is an important exercise. But for your charter to be truly useful, you need to share it throughout your organization, so that everyone knows what you do. Does your company have a central place (like Miro, Ally.io, or Workday) to collect and track each team’s purpose and goals? If not, ask your tech team to help you implement one.

More resources 

3 easy wins

Build the habit

  • Tomorrow: Review your team’s goals. Do they align with your higher purpose?
  • Next week: Review your team’s charter. Does it align with your company strategy?
  • Yearly: Revisit your charter to make sure it still fits.