A flip chart

Flip charts!

Building an Agile project charter is one the first events that marks the beginning of a new endeavor.  The charter helps a team clearly capture the project’s goals and definition of success.   For most projects, project initiation is a time full of possibilities, a time before all the mundane issues and the day-to-day begins. The process of framing the charter must acknowledge the excitement of the team without letting that excitement lead them astray.  A standard, moderated process to create a charter provides focus and direction for a team raring to deliver value.

There are two primary prerequisites to starting an Agile charter.

  • A product owner or stakeholder has conceived of a project and gotten approval to at least create a charter.
  • A project team has been assigned to the work (product owner, scrum master/coach, team).

Without a team or a project, creating a charter does not make sense.

A simple process for building a charter is shown below:

  1. Before convening the entire team, the product owner and scrum master should decide which components will be included in the Agile team charter (see Agile Team Charter and Agile Charter Barnacles and More Agile Charter Barnacles). The scrum master/coach will moderate Agile team charter session and should do some work in preparation.
  2. For each section that will be included, prep the flip charts.  For example, label a single flip chart for each component and for the elevator speech put the outline down for the team.
  3. Create a set of framing questions for each component.  These questions can be used to facilitate the discussion.
  4. Convene the meeting to build the Agile team charter.  This session should typically be scheduled for half of a day. All team members should attend in person. When that is not possible, then ensure good tele- or videoconference packages are used. Include lunch, if at all possible.  It is imperative that all team members, including the product owner, participate.
  5. Before beginning work on the charter, review with the team why they there, any ground rules (e.g. no smart phones) and the components that are being proposed as part of the charter.  Tailor the list of components based on feedback from the team. I almost always suggest discussing risk in the session held to build the charter, however never include the risks in the charter (add them immediately to the backlog instead).
  6. Pass out markers, sticky notes, voting flags or any other items that the team will use during the session.  No one should have to spend time looking for office supplies during the session.  When there are remote participants the moderator or someone helping the moderator will act as an intermediary to scribe their comments.
  7. Iteratively complete the components in the Agile team charter.  Have team members scribe their own comments on the flip charts.  One mark of a good session is multiple handwriting styles on each flip chart because is a reminder of the whole team’s engagement in creating the charter.
  8. Tape the completed components to the wall in the team room in a prominent place so that every team member can review the charter as needed.

The scrum master/coach is in the room to help the team complete the charter, not to complete it for them.  The moderator should manage the flow of discussion and the clock.  Defining the charter is time boxed so that is completed in one session.

The process of building a typical Agile team charter occurs once as a project begins.  This is no different than in a classic project.  However, in an Agile project the Agile team charter is referenced on a daily basis.  I recommend reviewing the charter at least once every ninety days or if any significant changes happen on the team. An Agile team charter provides direction for the whole team. A standard process harnesses the team’s energy to build a charter and begin the project moving.