How to build a team charter

Tilt's logo with white text on a blue background
Tilt's logo with white text on a blue background

How to build a team charter

A team charter is a powerful way to support a team to establish the values and behaviours they would like to embody as a team. Simply because it puts the power for creating team culture into their hands.

If challenges arise you can draw the team’s attention back to this team charter and ask them how they’d like to respond. For example the team may note in the charter how they want to respond to conflict within the team. When conflict arises you can draw their attention back to this and encourage them to respond in the way they’ve laid out. ​

An image demonstrating shared understanding. It shows three people thinking they agree but when they write their ideas onto a blackboard they realise they are totally different which allows them to then combine those ideas and make something they all agree on

Building a team charter is particularly useful when...

  • You are working with a new group of people.
  • A group of people are new to working together.
  • You are forming a cross functional team to test a new idea (for example via a design sprint as we did with Carers First).
  • You are looking to introduce more agile ways of working in a team. (We used this at the beginning of our work with the Amnesty Digital Engagement Team as they embedded agile ways of working).
  • Being used as part of regular reflection sessions or retrospectives (find out more here).
  • As a frame of reference, i.e. if conflicts arise you can guide the team back to the principles they laid down for how they respond to conflict.

Four steps to facilitate creating a team charter

1. Introduce the values canvas

You can create this using a flip chart (if you’re face to face) or pull an image into an online whiteboard like Mural if you’re remote. Then ask the team to think about what they value in a team, or what they think makes a great team. You can invite them to silently brainstorm their ideas on to post it notes (one thought per post it). You can also get them to complete the sentence “in a great team they do (x)”

A graphic showing the Values Canvas. It has five boxes with boxes for the team logo and the team name at the top, a box for the team motto in the middle, and boxes for Values and Behaviours at the bottom.

2. Group the values - six box

  • Draw a 2 x3 grid on a flip chart or online whiteboard.
  • Pick up one of the post its, read it out and place it in one of boxes. Then pick up the next post it and ask does it belong in this box, or does it need a new box? i.e. is it the same or different?
  • Now the group knows how to use 6 boxes. Get them to now take it in turns to read out a post it and then decide which box it belongs in. Is it the same or different from the themes that are forming in the boxes?
  • Continue this until all the post its are grouped into the boxes. (you really do only need 6 boxes, it always works!)
  • Ask the group to name the boxes, i.e. What word or few words would summarise what is in this box? Once that is done you now have your list of values! So you can add these to ‘Value’ section of the canvas.

3. Group behaviours

Values are great but we want to know what that will look like day to day. For example, if your team says they value honesty, what does that mean they will actually do? And how will they know they are doing well at it? In the next activity ask them to come up with behavioural examples for each of their values. In the next activity ask them to come up with behavioural examples for each of their values.

Again, group any behaviours that are the same to avoid duplication and agree them all as a team through discussion. Pop them on the behaviours section of the canvas as you go along.

4. Open discussion

The other sections in the canvas can be filled out through discussion. If the team are going to be selecting a new name as part of this session I would recommend letting them know in advance as it can be difficult to choose. Also if that conversation starts to take up a lot of the session, park it and come back to it outside of this workshop.

Facilitation support

Bringing people together effectively to create a Team Charter is key to enabling your organisation to be more adaptable and responsive.

Our interactive online training series will give you the essential skills to improve your facilitation to deliver the impact you want. 

You will leave with a range of practical tools plus the confidence to adapt your style and plans to online, offline and unexpected events!

Time to give it a go!

We suggest you don’t spend too long completing the charter the first time you do it. The aim is not for it to be perfect or correct, but instead for the team to start to surface what is important to them. Instead aim to get something that feels ‘right enough’ down.  You can then encourage the team to come back and regularly update and enrich this, for example if you run regular regular reflection sessions or retrospectives then encourage the team to update this as part of those sessions.

Finally, thanks to Arif Bobat and Connie Van Zanten who created these steps, adapted from Geoff Watts’ and Paul Goddard’s online Retrospective course.