We’ve all seen this too many times. People get together and talk about stuff. They seem to agree. They end the conversation or meeting or workshop on a high note. And then nothing happens. It’s because the talk and agreements were theoretical and general – mushy. Bridge from that to real action and impact with team charters.

The focus of PrimeGenesis work is executive onboarding, helping new leaders and their teams deliver better results faster. These leaders generally use an imperative workshop to pivot from converging to evolving. These are almost always an exciting couple of days as the teams co-create their mission, vision, objectives, priorities and plans. They leave aligned and excited.

And then.

And then sometimes the leader and the team follow through, click off their milestones, deliver early wins, build confidence in themselves and each other and become high-performing teams.

And then sometimes they don’t follow through and nothing changes. That happening is worse than never having done the imperative workshop in the first place because people’s hopes get elevated and then dashed.

The differences between teams that follow through and don’t are clarity of purpose, availability of resources, and agreement on and acceptance of bounded authority and accountability – all of which get laid out in a team charter.

Hence the point about leveraging team charters to bridge from mush to impact.

Standard Team Charter


  • Lay out what led to this team being chartered – Why it matters, the problem to be solved.
  • Objective – Define what the team should accomplish – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time bound (SMART)
  • Lay out the intent – What’s going to happen after the objective is achieved?


  • Clarify the human, financial, data/technical and operational resources needed/ available.
  • Clarify what other teams, groups, people are supporting, dependent on, or interdependent with this team, and what their roles are.


  • Clarify what the team can and cannot do with regard to scope, roles and decisions, including mandatory executional elements (bounded authority).


  • Clarify what is going to get done by when by whom and how the team is going to track milestones so that they and others know about risks in advance and can adjust well before milestones are missed.
  • Clarify command, communication, and support arrangements so that all know how they are going to work together.
  • Monitor and adjust along the way to achieve that purpose while minimizing unintended consequences.

Of course, team charters are going to be different for different teams. Of course, some are going to be much more detailed and some are going to be more general. But you should use them.

Through the years, I’ve refused to be interviewed by anyone without an interview brief, so I knew about the person interviewing me, their slant on the article, and my three main communication points.

I’ve refused to authorize the creation of advertising or packaging or the like without a creative brief.

Shame on you if you expect teams to get stuff done without a team charter. It’s your way of making sure they’re going to deliver what you expect the way you expect it.

And shame on you if you agree to lead a team without a team charter. It’s your way of making sure you deliver what others expect the way they expect it.

Just as it’s far less expensive and frustrating to move walls at the architectural drawing stage than in the middle of construction, it’s far less expensive and frustrating to adjust expectations at the team charter stage than in the middle of the project or program.

Implications for you

Coming out of an imperative workshop or any planning exercise, get team charters in place.

And the more you can focus effort the better. If someone has one priority, they’ll spend 100% of their time on it, a third of their time on each of three priorities, a tenth on ten, and so on. The closer you get to one priority, the more focused they are and the higher the likelihood of success. So, charter the most important teams and focus them as much as possible.

And, be explicit in the charters for early wins about the incremental resources that are going to get invested to deliver outcomes even faster.

Click here for a categorized list of my Forbes articles (of which this is #836)

I focus on executive onboarding and transition acceleration. Click on these links for free executive summaries of my books: “The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan” and “The Merger & Acquisition Leader’s Playbook

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