Teamwork: The Project Charter

Project Team Discussion in High Rise Building

I have a very simple philosophy on projects: There are good projects and bad projects. Everyone looks good on good projects and on bad projects everyone looks bad. Throughout my career I have encountered situations where something has gone wrong and people revert to the ‘but it wasn’t my fault’ response. Those of you who know me can guess my reaction to that type of ethic: Unacceptable. Zero tolerance!

The Project Team Charter

Every team must know the reason it exists and each team member has to know what they are accountable for. One way to achieve this is with a team or project “Charter”. This concept was introduced to me by Helen Jameson. Helen, an Olympic athlete and sports psychologist, is the best management consultant I have worked with. She also happens to head up our Leadership of Change program.

The Charter breaks down a project or strategy into manageable units at the team and individual level in terms of goals, tasks and responsibility. It also identifies risks and issues that could prevent the tasks from being achieved as defined. The “governance” of the charter ensures effective communication of these components to all the relevant stakeholders who are empowered to make decisions.

The Charter Applied to RWC 2011

Prior to the Rugby World Cup 2011 Helen and I were debating the relative prospects of the home nations. I stated that as England had greater resources, arguably greater individual player talent and had the experience from having won the competition in 2003, they, therefore, had the best chance of succeeding in a tournament that is intensely demanding over a short period of time. Through our usual heated debate, Helen claimed that England could not win because they were not cohesive. She compared the England RWC 2011 team to the England team of 2003 and Wales of 2011.

Wales 2011 and England 2003 had charters that were agreed unanimously by the squad and management; they had broken the charter down into manageable units well in advance of the actual competition (e.g. fitness levels, tactics, nutrition, set-plays). They had assessed what might prevent the Tasks from being performed (e.g. the consumption of alcohol and player behaviour). They had also communicated what they needed to succeed to their governing body, who were then enabled to back the team in an informed and supportive fashion.

“England underperformed but I played well in patches”: Unacceptable. Zero tolerance!

Of course, Wales didn’t win in 2011 either but not because of the same reasons England failed. The 2003 England team was a prime example of how a well-executed charter can lead to ultimate success. With internal projects, a team does not even face direct opposition and it is a key role of the charter’s governance to remove the resistance.

Sound familiar? Contact JP Reis on 020 7680 7900 to find out more.