A charter statement (also known as a project charter or mission statement, depending on context) is used to outline goals, objectives and principles of a given team. Charter statements are versatile and should be tailored to meet the specific needs and demands of a given group (or organization). They can be formal or informal, detailed or generalized. In essence, a charter statement should be the most clear and direct articulation of a team's objectives and motivations.
Components of a Charter Statement
The various parts that comprise a charter statement vary. For some charter statements, many elements such as a mission statement, goal list, and values or principles list may be included. For other charter statements, only one or two elements may be necessary or appropriate. Charter statements are both internal and external documents; they provide an organization with an internal cohesive philosophy, while demonstrating to external groups and individuals why, and how, the team functions.
Present and Future
A charter statement should connect the present-day status of the team or organization and speak to its abilities, competencies, and goals. The present should be linked with the future via the charter statement as well. How each of these three elements will forge a pathway to accomplishing the objectives articulated will keep all team members focused on achieving a unified goal. Clearly stated methodologies and benchmarks for success are signs of a strong charter statement.
Strong internal motivation is required to keep a team focused on a common goal, and a charter statement will help hone team members by giving them a common road map to success. A shared identity, then, must be established. A sense of camaraderie and cohesion between leadership and team members is fundamental to ensuring success. Additionally, the organization or team's purpose is defined by its charter statement.
Formulating a Charter Statement
There are three core questions that should be answered in developing a charter statement. First, what does the team do? For instance, what are its essential functions, characteristics, and abilities. Second, who is the intended audience of the team's abilities? Will the organization focus on customer care? Patients? Or is there someone or something else on the receiving end of the team's abilities? Finally, how will the work be conducted? What are the team's strategies and metrics of success?
The charter statement must be collaboratively integrated, too, into broader organizational philosophy. The organization's vision must be supported, and enhanced, by the charter statement. While a vision may articulate what the organization's far-reaching goals are, the charter statement provides the framework and anticipates the skills and necessities for reaching those goals.
Leah Berkman has been writing professionally since 2001. She has been published in "Battleground: Science and Technology," a textbook about the sociological and philosophical issues of science. She holds a Bachelor of Science in science and technology studies from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and is pursuing a Master of Arts in Russian and eastern European studies and a Master of Library Science from Indiana University.