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Team Charters

Team Charters

Creating a good team charter is easy and effective, and you can do it yourself, with no approval from your boss necessary.

For a team to be effective, they need three things:

  • Enabling Structure;
  • Compelling Direction;
  • And they need to be a Real Team.

Unfortunately, most teams struggle to have even one of these in place. And practically speaking, the last attribute — being a real team — is hard to achieve inside scaled, matrixed organizations. Working groups tend to be large, geographically dispersed, and come with many built-in conflicts of interest.

Despite these challenges, we must persist in cultivating the conditions for effective, well-composed and resourced teams — and use their breakthroughs in performance as fuel to drive deeper organizational change in structure and resource allocation. Over time, this will help us create the conditions for everyone to be part of a Real Team.

So, in the near-term, we place most of our focus on getting our Structure and Direction right.


Mission-Driven Structure is a way of continually designing teams so that all team members share ownership in the mission, roles are defined by work (not job title), and teams serve a clear mission (not a boss).

Basic Explainer

How to Write a Great Mission

Mission-driven teams enable collaboration, focus, and trust  — and help avoid undue stress, confusion, and frustration. Enabling structure isn’t about getting it right before you start — it’s about working toward correcting it over time. A clear, inspiring mission can hold together many teams — consider that all teams inside TK are working toward some common mission, and it’s all of our jobs to break down that big mission into ever-smaller chunks as we move down the organization.

As a coach, it’s your job to obtain for the team a clear, inspiring mission that fulfills the following criteria:

A good mission is Durable: It is hard to achieve, but inspirational; will last for the duration of our team’s work together (e.g. one year) even if our membership changes.

A good mission is Fractal: It can be broken-down into smaller pieces, each of which can be handed to a person or sub-team; It can be used to define clear boundaries around the work, including what we should not do.

A good mission is Clear: It enables teams to make decisions by explicitly stating which decisions fall within their domain and which fall outside; it is written in plain, easy-to-understand language.


In practice, this will mean sitting with the team’s leader and his or her manager to design or negotiate a team mission to bring back to the team.

Some tips:

  • Don’t return to the team until you have something written down that you believe will give the team energy
  • Avoid wasting time in PowerPoint — remember, at the end of the day, a mission is just a memorable sentence
  • In every case, it’s the manager’s job to understand and guide the distinction between the teams that they manage; invite them to bring that perspective to the discussion

Some facilitative questions to ask:

  • Given the department’s overall purpose, what outcomes is this team accountable for?
  • If we are successful, what will happen?
  • What outcomes are we trying to achieve?
  • What 1-2 mission statements summarize our purpose as a whole?
  • What will we achieve if we fulfill our account-abilities?

How to Build Enabling Structure

With  a  compelling  direction  in  hand  —  in  the  form  of  a Durable, Fractal, Clear Mission — host a workshop to design the team structure. The goal of this workshop is to design a team structure from the work, not just from the people on the team. The output will be a set of Role Descriptions that likely outnumber the people on the team. With  more  roles  than  people,  and  with  people  holding  multiple roles, it becomes easier and safer to edit and delete roles without changing the membership of the team

Tips for Role Descriptions

A good role description does:

✓ Describe the purpose and accountabilities of the role

✓ Indicate decision rights that fall to the role-filler

A good role description does not:

✕ Reference a job description or individual’s name from the org chart

✕ Tell a team member how to do the jobSample Role

Give Example