So, the time has come for your regular quarterly planning, when your team must prioritize all incoming product asks (for product engineering teams), or engineering asks (for platform teams). In this process, you're mostly deciding how to prioritize these asks, and making sure the members of your team are on the same page.
Team charters are living documents that align team members to a common goal, and inform the organization where they can be most effective. Essentially, it explains each team's mission in writing. Instilling documents like these reduce the friction caused by project prioritization and ownership.
You don't need to be an engineering manager or tech lead to draft this document. This guide will show you how to start small and earn buy-in from your team and upper management.
Ideally, your team charter should include information about:
These items are covered in greater detail below.
Adding a few short paragraphs on the team's history can create a shared understanding of the teams identity, including challenges it faced in the past. It is a useful tool to acclimate new team members into your structure, but also to remind old members where they come from. Reviewing team history helps us appreciate accomplishments, a boon when it comes to finding motivation.
This should be a sentence or two that captures the team's responsibilities. Think about these questions when you write the team's mission statement:
Vision statements give your team direction. Your vision statement should explain what the team aspires to be, your dreams. These are some questions to consider:
Try to focus on two to three different areas, and create a vision statement for each of them.
It is essential that your team charter identify risks that could prevent the team from reaching its goals. These risks becoming a reality could start a cycle of treading water. It is everyone's job to keep an eye on these risks, and to take action when needed.
This includes a list of long-term goals that might span multiple quarters, and KPIs for each of them, so you know you're on the right track.
This is a list of projects for which the team is responsible, mainly to create clarity on ownership.
Once you have created a draft document capturing your initial thoughts, it's time to gather feedback to improve it. Start with your team first. Tell them why you made this document, and ask for their input.
After your team has agreed on the charter document's content, bring it to upper management for feedback, if necessary.
Share it with the organization, and most importantly, with your internal stakeholders. Ask for their feedback as well, and incorporate them as much as possible.
Do not weaponize your charter document. It's not meant to replace discussions around ownership and collaboration between teams, but to create clarity in a collaborative fashion.
Make it a priority to revisit and update team charters once per quarter, ideally before quarterly plannings. If you don't do quarterly plannings, update them before any other scheduled plannings. In a team setting, ask questions like these:
It's good practice to link your charter document in the communications you send to the organization. This ensures that all teams have the most up-to-date mission statement, and are aware of the company's goals.