How to Create Better Team Charters (Free Template)

Written by 
David Chin
June 22, 2023
Four people collaborating together at a table
How to Create Better Team Charters (Free Template)
Written by 
David Chin
June 22, 2023

What qualities define a successful, productive team?

✔︎ Dedication

✔︎ Transparency

✔︎ Empathy

✔︎ ...

The list goes on and on...

There are many concepts that qualify as "positive team attributes," but not every team works in the same way or values the same things — so there's no universal guide that every team can follow to find success.

As the hybrid work model continues to gain traction, organizations are seeking ways to enhance collaboration, streamline communication, and foster a sense of belonging among their teams. One powerful tool that can help achieve these objectives is a team charter.

With a team charter, you build a shared understanding of how your unique teammates will best work together — by outlining the essential elements of your team's communication and defining a set of concepts and skills that will focus and guide you.

What is a team charter?

A team charter is a foundational document that outlines the essence and working principles of a team. It acts as a compass, guiding team members toward shared goals and fostering a cohesive work environment. By establishing a clear understanding of the team's guiding principles and expectations, a team charter sets the stage for effective collaboration and alignment within a hybrid work setting.

The exact format of a team charter can vary from team to team. Some get extremely granular, while others stay high in the sky. Some teams build word documents, and others visualize charters through sketching. Any format is the best format, as long as it sets your team up for success.

visual charter
Sketched charter from my Innovation Studio project team - MBA in Design Strategy, California College of the Arts, 2016.
🙌🏽 to my teammates @LisaKaySolomon, @Jeanette.Melgarejo, @Louis_Kejizheng, @IblerPlaus, @DanielQuon

What should a team charter include?

A team charter should include an overview of the team's purpose, goals, values, and expectations. It should clearly define the team's mission statement and objectives, outlining what the team aims to achieve. Roles and responsibilities of each team member should be specified to establish accountability.

The charter should also include the team's values and expected behaviors, promoting a positive team culture. Communication and collaboration guidelines, decision-making processes, and conflict-resolution processes should all be outlined.

Why are team charters important?

The collaborative process of creating the team charter is arguably the most valuable, especially with newly formed teams. Brainstorming, discussing, prioritizing, and aligning on your team identity is a bonding moment as much as a functional exercise. 

Improved clarity and alignment with stakeholders

A team charter serves as a reference point that helps team members articulate their purpose, goals, and desired outcomes in a clear and concise manner. By sharing the team charter with stakeholders, such as managers, clients, or other departments, it ensures everyone is on the same page, promoting a shared understanding of the team's objectives and enhancing alignment.

Increased accountability and buy-in

When team members actively participate in the creation of a team charter, they have a sense of ownership and responsibility towards achieving the defined goals. The charter is a jointly-created commitment that clearly outlines individual roles and responsibilities, fostering a culture of accountability. 

They unite teams around a living commitment

Team charters are fluid, living documents; they evolve as the team progresses and adapt to changing circumstances. They act as a living agreement that teams can revisit and refine over time. By revisiting the charter regularly, teams can assess their progress, make necessary adjustments, and maintain a shared understanding and commitment to the team's purpose and values.

How to create a better team charter

The main part of a team charter can be broken down into six distinct sections: team members, core values, group norms, roles, success metrics, and standards of quality.

For each section, you’ll want to complete the following exercise:

  1. Brainstorm: record all of your team's thoughts
  2. Consolidate: choose your team's top values
  3. Refine: turn your notes into concise sentences

1. List out team members and stakeholders

Have each team member add sticky notes with their name, two self-identified strengths, and two weaknesses. 

Be sure to explore any opportunities for collaboration or possible dependencies between team members. This can help guide how processes are created and improved upon in the future.

2. Agree upon core values with the entire team

Core values are the guiding principles and that the team lives by as they work toward team goals. Brainstorm and discuss which shared values can help guide how you approach work and how the team members will collaborate with each other.

The specific values in a team charter should be custom to the team creating it, but here are some examples of team values:

  • Team Collaboration: Emphasize the value of teamwork, cooperation, and a collective approach to problem-solving. Encourage open communication and the sharing of ideas to foster a collaborative work environment.
  • Accountability: Highlight the importance of individual and collective accountability. Encourage team members to take ownership of their responsibilities, meet deadlines, and follow through on commitments.
  • Adaptability: Recognize the need to be flexible and adaptable in a hybrid work environment. Emphasize the value of embracing change, being resilient, and adjusting to new circumstances and challenges.
  • Innovation: Foster a culture of creativity and innovation. Encourage team members to think outside the box, explore new ideas, and embrace experimentation to drive continuous improvement.
  • Trust: Cultivate a foundation of trust within the team. Encourage open and transparent communication, foster a safe space for sharing opinions and concerns, and promote trust-building activities.

3. Define team norms

With the other team members, establish your ways of working and the ideals you’ll expect each other to abide by in day-to-day interactions. This might include the desired format for common deliverables, recurring workflows, and outcomes.

4. Determine necessary team roles

Based on the strengths, weaknesses, and skill sets of each team member, define what roles each person will assume, what their responsibilities are, and how everyone will collaborate with each other.

5. Identify team success metrics

Consider how success can be measured beyond a letter grade or number score. What does success look like? Are there specific milestones along the way or desired outcomes the team is working towards?

Be sure to know the distinction between OKRs and KPIs as your team defines the measurable steps along the team roadmap.

6. Outline quality standards

What are your expectations for high-quality work and outcomes? Think about the level of quality you deliver and expect from your teammates. Be sure to keep these standards achievable and within reason. If the team is consistently held to standards that are unattainable, this can hurt morale.

7. Organize these ideas into a cohesive charter

Transfer your organized thoughts from the six sections and draft up a single, cohesive charter document for each member of the team to follow.

This step organizes all of the concise sentences from the six sections into a 'final' asset. This provides an easy way to review the charter if (when) your team needs to refocus further down the road.

Example team charter

Start from a completed example

An example team charter from Mural

Team charter template

Use a team charter to outline the essential elements of your team's communication and define a set of concepts and skills that focus and guide your team. Invite your teammates to the example template and review together, then move into a blank charter and begin your journey to becoming a high-performing team.

Blank team charter template
A blank team charter template from Mural

5 Tips to get the most out of your team charter

Follow these tips to create a team charter that truly reflects your teams’ collective purpose, values, and goals.

Build your charter early on when a new team is formed

By involving team members from the beginning, you establish a collaborative approach that encourages ownership and buy-in. Effective teams contribute their perspectives and get involved to set the team's “north star” direction and expectations right from the start.

Make your charter visible/accessible to everyone on the team

Consider using a shared online whiteboard platform or collaboration tool like Mural where team members can easily refer to and review the charter whenever needed. This visibility serves as a constant reminder of the team's purpose, goals, and values, promoting alignment and unity.

Consider your charter as an evolving document

Encourage open discussions and feedback to revise and refine the charter as necessary. By embracing this flexibility, the team charter remains relevant and adaptable to the team's evolving needs. 

💡 Remember: Be sure to update the team or project charter when new team members join.

Use your charter for accountability and direction, not policing

Instead of focusing on surveillance or strict enforcement, emphasize the charter's role in aligning and guiding the team's efforts. It serves as a reference point to remind team members of their responsibilities and the collective goals they are working towards, encouraging autonomy and self-management.

Review your charter during quarterly retrospectives (or as needed)

Consider incorporating regular charter reviews into retrospectives or other team evaluation processes. Use this opportunity to assess the team's progress, identify any gaps or areas for improvement, and make adjustments to the charter if necessary.

Related: How to Create a Team Working Agreement

Take action to create your own team charter

Use these custom Mural templates to establish the ground rules for how your team works together as a cohesive group in real-time.

Invite your teammates to the example template and review together, then move into a blank charter and begin your journey to becoming a high-performing team.

All good things in life are free. Sign up for our free forever plan and unlock your team's imagination instantly!

About the authors

About the authors

David Chin

David Chin

Creative Lead
Creative Lead at MURAL // Moving beyond the pixels to connect intuition, reason, and opportunity.