Creating an effective team charter

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Too often teams spend a considerable amount of their valuable resources trying to figure out what it is they are supposed to do, writes contributors John Moran, Grace Duffy and Michael Rudis. Before starting any type of a process improvement work, it is important to know where you're headed. Here's how a Team Charter can help.

A Team Charter is the official document from the team sponsor that empowers the team to act. It is a written document describing the mission of the team and how this mission is to be accomplished. The Team Charter is one of the most under-used and under-valued tools available to sponsors, team leaders, and facilitators for helping a team succeed.

But it is often overlooked because it is time consuming to develop. To write a clear, concise, and inclusive Team Charter requires great forethought and effort. Often the sponsor is in such a rush to start the teaming process that they skip the basic step of filling out a Team Charter that clearly defines the goals and objectives to be achieved. 

When a team is started without a formal Team Charter many meetings are often wasted trying to figure “why we are here, what we should do, and when it should be done.” The team spends a considerable amount of time and energy trying to second guess what the sponsor really wanted when the team was formed. This is a loss of valuable time and talent that could be avoided by designing a clear mission statement prior to the team’s formation. That's why a sponsor must take the time to fill out a Team Charter.

The Team Charter is an official work contract. This document delineates the strategic goals, boundaries, measures of success, constraints/limits, and available resources. The Team Charter provides a framework for ongoing discussions between the team and its sponsor with regard to the team’s direction and progress.

It is an iterative process until a base line acceptance is established. It must be reviewed on a regular basis by the sponsor, the team leader, facilitator, and team members to ensure that it is reflective of what the team is doing or will be doing in the future. 

The following example of the use of a Team Charter in a Public Health Department is an excellent adaptation of the concepts in the original team charter article to provide a guidance document to beginning Process Action Teams.

Delaware (US) Public Health PROCESS ACTION TEAM (PAT) CHARTER

 

The DPH Process Action Team (PAT) Charter is the official document from the executive sponsor that empowers the PAT to act.  It is a written document describing the mission of the team and how this mission is to be accomplished. The DPH Process Action Team (PAT) Charter is the official document from the executive sponsor that empowers the PAT to act.  It is a written document describing the mission of the team and how this mission is to be accomplished.

The PAT Charter is one of the most under-used and under-valued tools available to executive sponsors, team leaders, and facilitators for helping a team succeed. The PAT Charter is often overlooked because it is time consuming to develop. To write a clear, concise, and inclusive PAT Charter requires great forethought.

Too often folks are in such a rush to begin the teaming process that they skip the basic step of completing a PAT Charter that clearly defines the goals and objectives to be achieved. The executive sponsor must take the time to complete a PAT Charter so the team will clearly understand the why, what, who, when, and where of the process they are to undertake.

The PAT Charter is an official work contract. This document delineates the strategic goals, boundaries, measures of success, constraints/limits, and available resources. The PAT Charter provides a framework for ongoing discussions between the PAT and its executive sponsor with regard to the team’s direction and progress.

The Team Charter is a repetitive process until a base line acceptance is established. It must be reviewed on a regular basis by the sponsor, team leader, facilitator, and team members to ensure that it is reflective of what the team is doing or will be doing in the future.

After a few iterations of this charter, the executive sponsor, team leader, and facilitator will have a written document that describes in detail what the team is to accomplish. This becomes the official work contract for the team leader and the facilitator to begin the teaming process. 

As an option you may use the “Working Copy” of the PAT Charter to draft the document (freely available for download here).  When you have a document that the executive sponsor, team leader and facilitator agree upon, enter the information into the form copy.  This will serve as the official document that all players will sign and work from.

For a full downloadable version of the PAT Charter forms please download the PDF here:

Creating a Project Team Charter - Template

Essential Components of a Team Charter

The table below describes the different components that a good team charter requires for success. The following tables are included for download the in the Charter Template document.

SECTION

WHAT IT DOES?

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

EXAMPLE

TIP

PAT Name

 

Identifies the team.

Enables the team to distinguish the effort from others.

WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) Waiting Room Time Reduction Team.

Keep it simple, unique, and easily stated.

Subject

Identifies the area of focus.

Clarifies the intent of the project.

WIC Intake Department waiting time

Make it clear and succinct.

Process Improvement Opportunity

 

States why this effort was initiated and what will be affected by the outcome.

Orients team and others to the true need for the effort. The source and analysis of the data that identified the problem or opportunity should be included and used as a baseline.

 

WIC applicants are complaining that it takes too much time to process their in-person application and there is a lack of privacy while giving information to the clerk.

This is the most important part of the Charter. It is the foundation for PAT formation. It's important to ensure that it is well thought through and agreed upon by the Executive Sponsor, Team Leader, and Facilitator.

Charter Dates

 

Signifies the day the charter goes into effect and the date the team adjourns.

Keeps the team focused on “beginning with the end in mind.  This is not necessarily the date the Team Leader reports results to the Executive Sponsor.

 

Charter Start Date:  September 17, 2011

Charter End Date: December 20, 2011

 

Make sure these dates are reasonable and agreed upon by the Executive Sponsor, Team Leader, and Facilitator.

Executive Sponsor

 

Identifies the senior leader that supports and/or initiated this effort.

Designated by the leadership team to hold overall responsibility for the strategy and its execution.

This Leadership Team member has overall authority and responsibility for organizing the team that will address the Process Improvement Opportunity.  They have overall operational accountability. The Executive Sponsor will be expected to break down barriers and “go to bat” for the team.

 

Mary James, Local  Health Department Administrator

 

It’s a good idea for all members of the PAT to meet the Executive Sponsor prior to the initiation of the Charter.

Team Leader

 

Identifies one individual who will guide the team to achieve successful outcomes and who will communicate to senior leaders.

 

Establishes who will conduct team meetings, provide focus and direction, and will ensure productive use of team member’s time. This person is not necessarily the same individual who will be “in charge” of the process, but should be a person who will “lose sleep” over the outcome. 

 

Josephine Smith, WIC Manager

 

Select a Team Leader that has a broad understanding of the process improvement opportunity.

Facilitator

 

Moves a team forward through a series of scheduled meetings aimed at attaining the goal established by the team and team leader.

 

Quality facilitators use observation, intervention, feedback, coaching, and team member personality differences to conduct effective meetings.  Quality facilitators are not subject matter experts, but rather focus on how effectively the team is working.

 

 

Joe Bagodonuts, Facilitator Extraordinaire

 

To eliminate the possibility of personal bias and the risk of getting involved with decision making and solutions, it’s important to select a facilitator that knows as little about the process as possible.

Team Member/Section/ Area of Expertise

 

Defines who will be on the team and why

 

Assure that all the people necessary to effect change will be involved.

 

Team Member: Wilma Bates – WIC Intake supervisor.

 

You may have people that you do not need on the core team. However, they are key stakeholders and must be consulted with, and made aware of, changes. These individuals should be identified in the Charter. Refer to the high level process utilized to define the scope to verify that the team has representation from each major process step.

Process Improvement Aim

 

It describes what the team intends to do, providing the team with a focus and a way to measure progress. The aim should be derived from a known problem (data) and need for corrective action.

 

Clarifies where the team is going and enables them to know when they get there. A well stated aim affords a team the opportunity to improve many aspects of the system or process related to the aim.

 

AIM: To reduce the waiting time by 50%.

 

Most successful improvement efforts have a succinct aim with a measurable stretch goal. The measure should be monitored over time and tracked in the form of a statistical process control chart.

Process Improvement Objectives (SMART = Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic, Time Dependent)

 

Listing out the specific and measurable objectives for the effort will help define the opportunities to improve.

 

It enables the team to reach consensus on what will be addressed during the course of the effort.

 

Eliminating Waste

Eliminate unnecessary waiting time

Reduce duplicative data entry

 

Group similar objectives and give them a descriptive title; for example, Eliminating Waste. Grouping objectives into change concepts facilitates creative thinking with improvement teams.

Success Metrics (Measures)

 

Defines how you measure the success of the improvement effort or the project as a whole.

 

Metrics help the team and sponsor to understand when and if an implemented improvement is meeting the desired goal.

Use sampling.

 

Overall applicant cycle time to get service and complete an application will be reduced by 50%.

 

Be specific. Agree to definitions & data sources. It is ideal to have a balanced set of measures: Identify one overarching measure that can be a gauge for the entire effort, measure it over time and use a control chart.  This should relate to the Process Improvement Aim.

Key Milestones

 

Marks significant expectations and/or deliverables the team can expect.

 

Holds the team accountable. Maps progress.

 

Current State Assessment due March 15th.

Recommendations to be presented to senior leadership in 6 weeks.

 

Schedule milestone reviews on senior management calendars well in advance to make sure time is available when the team is ready to present.

Available Resources

 

Articulate who and what is available to support the team. This might include a facilitator, trainers, or funds.

 

Provides both the team and senior leadership with an opportunity to negotiate what the team needs to be successful.

 

Facilitator: Joe Bagodonuts. Training workshops.

Up to $5,000 for miscellaneous office expenses.

 

Validate availability of resources as part of the definition stage of the process improvement project. The team sponsor or process owner is usually the function that controls resource availability.

Required Resources

 

Recognizes any additional resource the team believes is necessary to achieve the objectives of the process improvement project.

 

Resources are scarce in most organizations. It is best to be realistic in the use of resources and identify requirements at the onset of activities. If resources are unavailable, then options can be pursued for alternative strategies.

 

Support from Location Facilities department to re-work client waiting areas or create client booths.

 

Physical layout changes may take time to design, schedule and implement. Have the team think ahead to anticipate bottlenecks that may occur during the improvement project.

Considerations (Assumptions, Constraints, Obstacles, Risks)

 

Describes both positive and negative factors that must be discussed and understood prior to the work beginning.

Assumptions: statements of requirements that must be accepted;

Constraints: an element that might restrict or regulate project actions or outcomes;

Obstacles:  factor that might impede progress;

Risks:  a course of action that might pose a hazard or cause loss.

 

Clarifies expectations; requires people to reflect on the effort in a more thoughtful way; can redefine the work; may facilitate the removal of known obstructions in advance; gives credibility to teams (that they have considered possible issues).

 

 

Assumption: The WIC intake area can be rearranged to make for private booths

Constraints: Information Technology solutions will not be entertained at this time (system upgrade planned in 2 years).

Obstacles: Departmental practices related to scheduling applicants differ widely.

Risks: Changes may not conform to legal requirements

 

Communicate with all areas of the organization affected by the process improvements anticipated. Record any barriers or obstacles identified during these conversations. Some items may be simple to address, others may need significant effort. The sooner these are identified, the better.

Boundaries

 

Specifies the boundaries of the process you are involved in. They may be stated in time frames and/or process steps.

 

Sets the stage; provides focus; identifies limits.

 

“The time the person arrives in the WIC Department to the time they have successfully filled out the application and leave.”

 

Map out a 7-9 step high-level process flow for the scope you’ve defined.

This will help you understand what you need to be successful, including validating team membership.

Key Stakeholders/ Area of Concern

 

Identifies individuals and/or departments that may be impacted by the outcome. These individuals should be sought out as a resource and communicated with on a regular basis.

 

It recognizes their importance and increases the team’s awareness.

 

John Smith - Information Systems

 

Stakeholders may be affected directly by the anticipated changes or be politically essential to the acceptance of the recommendations. Stakeholders can ease the progress of the project or greatly delay progress.

Communication Plan

 

Clarifies your activities for keeping necessary and useful functions or leadership aware of project progress.

 

Identifies everyone who is expecting to receive communication on this team effort. The communication plan has two purposes; 1) Identifying how the team will work internally to achieve smooth interaction, 2) Establish requirements for keeping stakeholders and other external decision makers informed of project activity.

 

The entire team will give a report out to the stakeholders 6 weeks from the start of the project (~ Nov15). The Team Leader will update the Executive Sponsor weekly (agenda item at the regular staff meeting).

 

Over-communicate rather than under-communicate. Communication should match the style of the audience. If a senior leader likes to see charts and graphs, format the status report accordingly. If the Quality Council wishes to have the whole team present a milestone, then practice with all members contributing to the communication.

Signature Page

 

Serves as a contract agreement between the Executive Sponsor, Team Leader, Facilitator, and Team Members

 

Creates buy-in, everyone has an opportunity to meet all the players involved in the process improvement opportunity.

 

 

It's a good idea to have all parties sign the Charter at the same time and place.

 


References:


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Guarantee project success by examining the latest insights into project management including how to financially validate process improvement projects and effectively communicate the results.
 
John W. Moran, Grace L. Duffy & Michael Rudis Contributor: John W. Moran, Grace L. Duffy & Michael Rudis



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