Is Team Chartering the Key to Project Success?
A team charter helps to develop optimal team dynamics, boosting productivity and collaboration. It not only outlines team purpose and objectives, almost more importantly it provides clear direction on the ways the team will work together throughout the project. For example, desired team member practices/responsibilities; team communication plan; meeting habits/schedule; decision-making approaches; etc. The chartering process outlines the overall expectations of everyone on the team and gives everyone's voice an equal weight.
Before my time at Rafn, the chartering process included a lot of work around identifying barriers to success and defining goals that our current version frequently only touches upon. Today's version seems most beneficial in the alignment of expectations and in understanding what each of the team members need from one another to be successful. Throughout the Rafn Company, chartering has proven very useful in a variety of different scenarios:
- With an internal project team comprised of individuals who have not worked together in the past.
- With a project OAC team that is either new to each other or is very large.
- With a project OAC team that has many owner stakeholders.
- With a project team that has become dysfunctional over time and would benefit from course correction and realignment of expectations.
Coupled with personality testing, the chartering process also provides insight into each team member's interests, work styles, and skillsets. This will allow everyone to understand how to utilize each other most effectively. By understanding our strengths and weaknesses from an unbiased, test-based perspective, team members can understand why we work the way that we do... allowing everyone to be more open-minded about each other's different approaches.
"The team building we did at the start of The Confluence project has been extremely helpful in understanding our team dynamic. It has helped us understand the unique skills each person brings to the overall team, and the expectations we have of one another" says Emma Geyer, Construction Manager for Bellwether Housing. "I am so thankful we took the time to do a team-building exercise as it has allowed us to be upfront and honest with one another and start the project from a place of open communication".
The gist of the personality tests is that everyone should be honest. Reviewing each team member’s priorities also helps put everyone in that mindset during the chartering meeting. There are no right and wrong answers. No pressure to be something that you are not.
Most importantly, we don't always get to choose who we work with on any given project. Understanding what the potential flashpoints for conflict may be -as well as your team's biggest potential liabilities/weaknesses prior to the beginning of the project- sets the team up for success.
I think that the process promotes a positive culture of growth. This may vary from team to team... but we are constantly striving to find the most efficient way to get things done, instead of just going through the process for the process's sake. This trait feels like an output of the team chartering that we did at the beginning of the project.
I read somewhere that "understanding differences create empathy, which builds emotional intelligence, which contributes to productivity, happiness, and retention among teams". And if that is the measure of success for a project team, then I would say that chartering is key.