Do you have a new team or are you starting a new project? Most teams rush into the work of the team without getting clear agreements in the beginning about where they are going or how they want to get there. They wait until they hit a bump in the road, and then are forced to work out agreements in the midst of frustration and confusion. Much team conflict is due to confusion and lack of agreement on expectations. Clarifying your expectations upfront will set up your team for success.
Have you worked together in the past?
It’s a big mistake to assume that since people have worked together in the past, they are already a team. Each time a group of people come together around a new project, regardless of their past experiences together, they need to clarify their expectations. Even ongoing workgroups need to clarify expectations when they approach a new major initiative.
Clarify Expectations for These Six Aspects
Create a “team charter” that clarifies each of these six aspects of team work. As a team, discuss the questions listed and record your agreements. Many of these questions can be answered immediately. Others will need to be answered or modified as you get into the work.
Document your team’s agreements and update them as you proceed.
Vision and Values
- What is the purpose of this team? Why does it exist? Why is it worth investing this time and effort?
- What shared values are needed to guide how we approach our work and how we work with each other?
- What would we see that would indicate we have been successful?
- How will we organize to accomplish the work? What is the best structure? What roles are needed?
- What planning and problem solving process are we going to use?
- How will we make decisions?
- What are the deliverables?
- How will we measure success?
- What are the timeframes?
Communications and Coordination
- What information needs to be shared?
- When will we meet, how frequently. where, etc.
- How will we keep up to date on the team’s progress? How will we communicate between meetings? How often?
Authority and Accountability
- To whom is the team accountable?
- What is the team’s decision-making authority? Do any decisions require outside approval? If so, how will approval be obtained?
- What decisions can be made by subgroups and what decisions need to be made by the whole team?
- How will we track and report progress on commitments and action items?
- Who are the members of the team and what are their primary areas of expertise? Is any other expertise needed? Are there any other groups or individuals that need to be represented or consulted?
- How is the team financially supported? Do we have the materials and technology needed?
- Are the time demands on team members understood and considered reasonable?
- What information do we need? Do we have access to all the information we need?
- Do our team members need any special training? (i.e. Working as a team, problem-solving, listening skills, etc.)
If you take care of the beginning, the end will take care of itself.
Unfortunately, many teams never clarify their expectations. They get bogged down in details and never reach their full potential. If your team is struggling, use this list to determine if it’s because of lack of agreement on your expectations.