Leading and Navigating Change with Team Charters

Part of the “Project Management Essentials” series by Susan Bisol, Director

Project Management Institute, Inc. (PMI) defines project management as “the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to a broad range of activities in order to meet the requirements of a particular project.” A project goes through a number of phases characterized by a distinct set of activities and tasks. The process of guiding and controlling a project from conception to conclusion can be further divided into 5 basic steps – Initiate, Plan, Execute, Control and Close. Let’s assume that the project has been initiated, defined at a broad level, deemed important and valuable to the organization. Now it’s time to take the reins and begin navigating through the planning phase.

The ability to lead change is one of the key components of influential behavior. Navigating change is a deliberate process to respond to internal and external issues or problems and requires the skills and abilities to develop a response plan. The influential leader with the confidence to reinvent, re-engineer, and redesign processes navigates change through the skillful employment of strategies and tactics. One such essential tactical tool is a team charter.

In Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, the second habit is to “begin with the end in mind”. This habit is based on the principle that “all things are created twice; a mental first creation and a second physical creation”. The mental first creation is the generation of the need for the change accompanied by the blueprint that clearly defines the plan to accomplish it. Good leaders have an idea and assemble a team to build an execution plan. Great leaders take the time up front to work with the project sponsor and stakeholders developing a team charter to define the scope, goals, and financial and performance targets for the project followed by the creation of the execution plan.


A project team charter is a document that defines the purpose of the team and what the expected outcomes are. A documented project charter serves as the “source of truth” to illustrate the focus and direction of the team. A charter prevents confusion about the team’s objectives providing a roadmap that the team and its sponsor creates at the beginning of the project to ensure that team members are clear on the scope of the project.

Team Charter Sections

Click here to view a sample Novia Team Charter Template

1. Team Goals & Key Deliverables

States the reason for the team, the problem it’s trying to solve and the consequence of leaving the problem unchecked. It answers three questions: What problem or change is the team going to address? Why is the team going to address the issue? And, what results or deliverables are expected?

2. Team Benefits & Key Measureable Indicators

Lists the mission or desired outcomes of the team as well as what will be measured to demonstrate the change.  Without a clear mission, personal agendas can cloud the team outcomes.

3. Team Sponsor

Provides the team with authority and empowerment while defining who the team goes to when it is unable to break down a barrier.

4. Team Members

Selection and the assignment of roles is important. The team needs to have a leader and many teams benefit from having a facilitator. Team members need to possess technical expertise in the discipline the team is addressing, problem solving and teamwork skills. All successful teams demonstrate the same fundamental features that include:

  • Strong and effective leadership to facilitate, inspire, and influence via communication, commitment, vision, attentiveness, integrity, and a results focus
  • Established goals and objectives
  • Informed decisions and the ability to act upon them
  • Open communication
  • The right balance of people with the requisite skills who are prepared to work together for the common goal of the team
  • Supporting resources who were not assigned to the team but add value to the overall purpose
  • Clear measureable metrics and targets

5. Operations

Outlines how the team will operate, for example, meeting frequency, the reporting and communication plans. It can be as minimal or detailed as the team warrants. It may be limited to a few bullet points or a comprehensive and detailed work plan with process element; i.e. measure, analyze, improve, control and associated tactical action steps.


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