CXO

Built to last: Create a winning team by starting with a team charter

If you're a team leader who's been entrusted with the responsibility of building a staff from scratch, how do you put together a successful team? Start by creating a team charter.


By Scott Withrow

Team leaders and managers know that they're only as good as the team they've assembled. But if you're a novice supervisor who's been entrusted with the responsibility of building a staff from scratch, how do you put together a winning team?

From creating a staff charter to retaining your employees, resource staffing is one of the most important skill sets found in the development manager repertoire. Over the next few weeks, we'll be looking at the many intricacies of building a successful development staff.

In the beginning…
It's your first day charged with development team leadership, and your first "project" is a big one. Your new boss gives you the mandate to create a cohesive development team that's capable of providing solutions in a fast-moving, highly dynamic systems environment.

But your boss isn't inclined to offer much guidance; he gives you just a vague idea of the team’s role within the enterprise and some very real budget constraints. With this minimal information, you set off to build your team, but where do you start?

Do your homework
Begin by interviewing everyone and anyone who will be a customer or provider for your team. Your goal is twofold: This is your initial step in developing the crucial relationships that will be necessary for the ultimate success of your staff, but you're also gathering information about the culture, strengths, and needs of the enterprise. This information will help you further define the mission of your new team and its relationship to the rest of the organization.

Create a charter
After you've finished your research, you need to begin formalizing the role your team will play in the success of the enterprise. Develop a team charter, the fundamental document that defines your staff. Similar to a project team’s charter, the purpose of this document is to put in writing the mission of your team and the parameters by which it will accomplish this mission. Here's an idea of the type of information a team charter should include.

Purpose/mission
This section consists of a brief paragraph identifying the role or function your team will perform within the enterprise. Focus on the benefits your team will provide, and try to give an idea of how the team will achieve these goals.

Sponsor
By listing the sponsors for your team, you identify where the team fits into the organizational structure. This has a political impact as well as a functional bearing. It identifies those who are responsible for the group’s existence and, more often than not, whose budget is affected.

Stakeholders and customers
Identify those you provide services or products to and those who provide services and products to the team. Remember: There are both internal and external customers. The team’s relationship and operation parameters may be very different between the two, and your charter should specify this.
  • Internal customers: Define the team's customers and associated interaction within the IT environment. For example, what is your relationship with operations, technical services, network support, management, etc.?
  • External customers: Define the interactions the team will have with business units outside the IT environment. The section is generally used to identify business-unit support responsibilities.

Success metrics
In a brief paragraph, outline the parameters that will be used to measure the success of your team’s efforts.

Strategic alignment
This is an optional section that can be used to clarify your team's structure to the enterprise. It's often used in large organizations where a more formal structure definition is required.

Resources
Identify your actual staffing requirements in a resources section. You should include the initial position descriptions and associated responsibilities for permanent staffing. You should also incorporate expectations for temporary staffing for key responsibility areas.

You can also include other sections within this document, such as facilitators, performance improvement information, detailed objectives, constraints, and assumptions—whatever you think is necessary to define your team's functions. Remember: Your key goal is to create a working document that formalizes the purpose and parameters of your future team.

Now for the team…
So now you have a team charter—but no team. How do you find the people you need to ensure your team's success? In the recruiting process, it's a good idea to begin with a detailed job description to make sure everyone's on the same page. Next time, we'll look at how to write a description that identifies the skills and duties required for a position.

Scott Withrow has more than 18 years of IT experience working in positions such as manager of advanced technology, director of development, and internal consulting application analyst. Scott has eight years of experience in IT management and seven years of Web development management experience, most of which has been in the medical insurance field.

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