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  • Writer's pictureSarah Butler

Virtual Team Management: Creating Team Charters

Virtual teams are becoming normalised as more people choose to work remotely or freelance rather than accept a traditional office job.


The success of virtual teams often hinges on their ability to establish trust and clear expectations from the start. In many cases, the people on your team may not even be able to meet face-to-face. Without a common understanding of how things will work, employees might feel uneasy and ungrounded.


It is critical to establish a direction and objectives for the team that are clear. No more “watercooler moments”, quick office catch-ups or standups to facilitate team building and communication. Good communication is vital if you want your team to remain productive, engaged, and on track.


Creating a Team Charter and Guidelines can clearly define roles and responsibilities and communication protocols, maximising the likelihood of a productive virtual team.


A Team Charter is a great way to keep everyone on track. It can be used to describe a team's purpose, how it operates, and what it must accomplish. It's basically a 'road map' for team members to ensure that they are on the right track. A Team Charter is usually prepared when a team is created. but can also be used to help a team regain or clarify its direction if it is in trouble.



Team Charter inclusions

A Team Charter typically may include the following:


Context

Provide some context about why your group was created. Was it to address specific challenges, projects, day-to-day tasks, or longer-term issues? Why your work important? How will it help the organisation achieve its goals?


Mission and objectives

Your team's primary objective should be summarised in a simple phrase. Having a clear mission helps your team stay on track. People may veer off course and follow their own interests if your team has no explicit objectives.


Composition and roles

Having the right people with the right skills is critical for success. Look at your team's objectives and match individuals to specific roles. Do any skills gaps exist? Can anyone benefit from training? Who will be in charge? Are there any issues to consider? Who is responsible for what tasks and outcomes? Are there any connections to other stakeholders? Who will be accountable for what?


Authority and empowerment

Given that you've clearly identified the team's responsibilities and identified who is accountable for them, look at what team members can and cannot do to accomplish the mission. How much time should they devote to the team objective? Are there other priorities that might get in the way of team activity? What do they require prior approval for?


Resources and support

Detail what resources and support are available to your team. What needs to be acquired? For example, budget, time, equipment, and people. Training and support are also provided here for team members.


Operations

What is the day-to-day operation of the team going to look like? A detailed plan or a few bullet points could answer this question.


Negotiation and agreement

An effective Team Charter should include input from every team member and external stakeholder. Furthermore, you should gain everyone's approval. This is a symbolic gesture that signifies everyone's commitment to the mission and objectives. It also creates a sense of accountability among the team and to the organisation.


Ground rules

A virtual Team Charter must go beyond an office-based Team Charter because virtual workers must work with a higher degree of initiative in order to accomplish team goals, communicate, and collaborate. Therefore, besides your charter, you may also wish to establish some “Virtual Team Ground Rules.”

  • Will people be expected to answer messages or emails immediately or within agreed parameters?

  • Is everyone available during the same core hours or will some be only during certain times?

  • Will you use video chat in every meeting or just some?

  • How often should team members be communicating? What method should they be using? What should be included in each communication?

  • How will people track their progress? Will you use a project management app? Or a spreadsheet?

  • How will you share files and collaborate?

It is crucial to emphasise these guidelines with your virtual workforce because you will not have the opportunity to interact with them in spontaneous conversations or impromptu meetings.

Use the right tools

If your team members are spread out over different cities or countries, it makes sense to use online communication tools to stay connected. These tools can help you foster stronger collaboration and communication among team members, making the virtual team experience more seamless.


Before selecting communication tools, you should ask yourself: What services do my employees currently use? What communication tools do they prefer? What services do you currently use? Which tools will help your team function more smoothly? Tools should be selected based on their usefulness, user-friendliness, and employee satisfaction.


You will generally need to acquire tools in the following areas:


Online communication tools: these are essential for helping people to stay connected and informed, and to reduce problems relating to isolation or loneliness. Popular apps include Slack, Skype, Teams, Zoom, and Google Hangouts.


Online collaboration tools: these include apps that drive creativity and collaboration, and allow you and your team to brainstorm ideas. For instance, Microsoft Whiteboard, Jamboard, or Mural.


File-sharing tools: these include online drives that enable you to save and retrieve files, collaborate on documents, and share information. This will also be where you store essential business information, such as procedures, guidelines, contact lists, and training guides. Two types of file-sharing tools you may consider using here are Microsoft Sharepoint and Google Drive.


Productivity tools: staying on track with tasks and projects can be challenging even when you’re working in the office. So it can be helpful to sign up to some productivity tools that will enable your people to delegate tasks, set deadlines, and log progress. Productivity apps you might want to consider include Trello, Asana, Basecamp, and Project.


Examples of Team Charters

From Asana

Source: Asana

Atlassian provides some examples of how you might negotiate parts of the agreement as a team:

A remote campaign team brainstorms and votes for which working agreements they will commit to and captures input in Confluence.

These software developers discuss their working agreements on Zoom and use Trello to capture input.

A fundraising team’s completed Working Agreements Play.

Wrapping up

Working virtually has many benefits, including reduced overhead costs, a more flexible work schedule, and better employee engagement. To supercharge your virtual team, you first need to establish ground rules from the start and clearly define each team member’s role. You should also set clear communication expectations and use the right tools for communication.


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