Teams that decide how they are going to treat members and work together before they start a project tend to excel. If the same team also plans ahead for achieving task related milestones, they tend to out perform.
According to researchers John Mathieu and Tammy Rapp at the University of Connecticut, this combination of advanced planning on the part of teams leads to highly effective outcomes.
The authors suggest that teams aspiring to perform optimally create a Team Charter. It’s a kind of code of conduct or agreement among team members about how the team will work together, make decisions, share accountability and deliver in a timely and cost-conscious way.
This, along with a detailed work plan outlining project objectives and the tactics required to complete it, will net effective outcomes. But how do you create a Team or Work Group Charter?
There are six elements to an effective charter or code of conduct:
1. Articulate the team mission and objectives.
Rather than launch right into an activity, the team needs to consider its mission and objectives first. This means answering the question: Why has the team been formed and what contribution is it supposed to make to the department or organization? For example, the team was formed to concentrate on acquiring new business and its contribution to the organization is to ensure the company’s survival during a recession. This ensures that all the team members understand why they are working to together and can tie activities to the business and strategic rationale. Outlining objectives for the team follows from identifying the mission. Identify the outcomes required of the team. The team can agree on the goals of the work group as they are reflected in organizational needs.
2. Identify Stakeholders
The team can identify who in the organization has a stake in its work. Who will be most affected by the team’s performance? Include how these stakeholders will be affected. By doing so, the team begins to see its work importance from an organization-wide perspective. Knowing who will be affected and how helps in getting the job done. It aids in the team’s effective performance by suggesting who will need to be included in decisions, feedback and communications from the team.
3. Discuss Team Player Characteristics
Do some self-reflection. Ask each team member what their strengths are. What do they bring that the team can draw on? Are they good at organizing, detail-oriented or able to keep an eye on the big picture? Are they happy working with others or like to take a piece of a project away and work on it alone for awhile? Find out about each other’s work styles and limitations. This means everyone looks inward and is honest about the areas other team members may need to assist them with. Part of the attractions of working on a team is that no one has to have all the required skills and abilities. Finding out how each team member complements each other is important. A conversation about how team members like to be treated when working together or when there is disagreement is key.
4. Discuss Decision-Making
It is important to identify how the team is most comfortable making decisions. Are decisions voted upon or is the model one of consensus-making? If team members disagree with a potential decision, how is that dealt with? Is decision-making collaborative – does everyone get a say and ideas are incorporated as they emerge? Exploring the various ways to make decisions and developing a way to do so is an important step to take before decisions are to be made. Discussing how work will be accomplished is important. Do team members like to complete tasks one at a time or do they like to work on tasks in tandem? For example, in a small business, while one worker develops the brochure, another might find an economical printer.
5. Develop a Feedback System
How will the team give each other feedback about members carry out the project and each team member contributes to the team’s culture ?. How will the team deal with times when mistakes are made, or deadlines missed? Is feedback given directly to team members during meetings or after? How are successes celebrated and positive feedback given to team members? Is feedback regularly scheduled during meetings when reviewing how the tasks are progressing? The answers to these types of questions are important to creating accountability on the team.
6. Evaluate The Team
Decide early how the team’s performance will be evaluated. What will be measured and when? How will the team’s performance be measured by the team itself? What are the determinants of success that the team will use? How do team members know when they are hitting the mark? Evaluating interpersonal and project task-based behaviours based on the team’s objectives is important, both. How the team is performing as a unit is worth evaluation and tracking how well the group is doing on each aspect of the project enables high performance.
Dr. Jennifer Newman and Dr. Darryl Grigg are registered psychologists and directors of Newman & Grigg Psychological and Consulting Services Ltd., a Vancouver-based corporate training and development partnership. They can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Identifying information in cases cited has been changed to protect confidentiality.