Having a team charter can help in solving many problems encountered by a virtual team. Virtual teams are often plagued with confusion and lack of clarity; being in different time zones adds to this commotion. For a clearer understanding, a team charter is a statement of joint purpose created by and agreed to by all the team members. The charter discussion allows each team member to express his or her views on what the team’s core purpose and objectives are, thus clarifying early on where time and energy will be focused and where the key disagreements are.

Team members often have their own ideas of what the team is supposed to do, and those ideas are often not aligned because team members do not have much opportunity to rub shoulders with one another in a series of work activities that may create a common focus.  From my experience of leading virtual teams in Asia Pacific at JLL, I recommend using these practical tips to set up a team charter .

Involve the ecosystem

The stakeholders may include customers, manager, or technical support staff. In most of the cases, some of these people will need to provide approval later on; it is a good idea to involve them early on in the process. Project teams, for example need clarity from the beginning regarding their assignment and the outcomes their leadership team is expecting . By getting all the stakeholders involved early on, a key problem of “ Multiplexing” can be solved; multiplexing is the pervasive practice of having multiple concurrent assignments. Because the virtual team members participate in different teams simultaneously, knowing the relative priorities of the projects helps them in dividing their time and attention in the right ratio. This issue gets solved in the chartering stage itself, as the key stakeholders are present.

Have a handle on time

In my experience the project delay starts from the chartering stage itself. Establishing clear timelines for when the team members need to respond to each step of the process is mission critical. Do not let the process drag on, as it will drain energy and eventually result in discouragement. The golden rule is to get the charter to a point that everyone can live with it and then revise it later if need be.

Practicality trumps perfection

Do not expect your team charter to describe everything about your team perfectly, work towards making it a practical statement that guides the team and provides clarity about what is expected of them.

Believe in your team charter

Don’t embark on making a team charter unless you plan to use it for keeping the team focused and on track. It’s a good idea to ask each of the team members to state his/ her commitment to follow the team charter. By making their formal commitment plea public, the team members are driven to build allegiance towards the team charter.

Lastly remember, the written team charter is less important than the discussion it represents and what may seem trivial to an outsider may reflect a significant insight or carefully worded resolution of conflicting views to people who participated in the process. Ideally a team charter should not run in pages, if people cannot remember it, there are high chances of it being a decorated plaque. Try including items like, overall purpose statement, clarification of customer requirement and an inclusion of key deliverables along with key resources needed.

Thanks

Aval Sethi