If You're Careful Enough
The Dimensions of Trust

Team Charter Diagram Planning Doing CycleRarely will you have the luxury of time to plan everything out before you start a new project or change initiative. And even if you do, it’s likely that unforeseen circumstances will send you back to the drawing board.

However, jumping ahead with no plans is a recipe for disaster.

Instead of planning and then doing, try approaching it as an iterative process, as a planning doing cycle. Think of it as building the vehicle while you are driving it.

While more realistic, this approach does require continual attention on the big picture as well as the details. It requires attention to not only what you are doing, but also how you are doing it — how you make decisions, who is involved and in what ways, how you communicate, etc.

What you are doing is the “content.” How you are doing it is your “process.” Paying attention to the process is essential for success in a planning-doing cycle.

A team charter is a way of capturing your agreements on how you will proceed, your process. Creating it early on will save you more time later on, and by updating it as you proceed, it becomes a living guide.

Creating a team charter requires a team conversation. It’s not something a leader can create alone and hand to the team.

You can craft the most wonderful solution or plan, but if you do it in isolation, you might be surprised by the lack of enthusiasm it generates. When people participate in the conversation, they have a deeper understanding of what’s needed and are more invested in its success.

The conversation itself creates learning and change for those who participate in it. If you wait too long to pull people in, they will not understand the issues the way you do, nor will they share your enthusiasm.

Taking the time for these conversations can be frustrating when you are feeling urgency. The trick is to find the right balance. If you are too process-driven, you are in danger of losing momentum. If you are too focused on doing, you are in danger of poor implementation.

One of the first questions to consider is who needs to be involved in the conversations. Consider all of your stakeholders, what will be required of them for implementation, and what is the best way to involve them.

Any plan for a new initiative, for change or for problem-solving, should include a plan for how you will inform and/or involve the people who will need to support it. They might not need to be involved in all of the chartering process, but the chartering process should include a plan for how to involve them.

As you proceed, pay attention to how, not just what, you are doing, to your process as well as your content. And update your team charter as you get more clarity and make new agreements.

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