The "committee charter" is the primary deliverable used to govern committee formation, organization and operation. And no committee, no matter the mission, should operate without one. Read on for more.
What is a Committee Charter?
The committee "charter" starts out as a "concept", established when the "who, what, why, when and how" of the committee mission has been defined. Now, once this "concept" is known, will that knowledge alone be enough to sustain viable committee operations? Unfortunately, no. If the charter is allowed to remain in concept mode, then committee actions and project operations will always be left to the whims of the moment and "subject to interpretation". And this creates a risk that is both unnecessary and unwarranted. While there are never any guarantees, this risk can be avoided when the "charter concept" is turned into a tangible, documented, and approved "charter deliverable".
What are the characteristics of a good charter deliverable?
First of all, it's fully documented in way that can be clearly understood. Then it's easily distributed so that all interested stakeholders have ample opportunity for review, input and approval. Finally, it's readily maintainable so that it can be updates as real-time circumstances may warrant.
Charter Content Reflects Committee Purpose
As stated in Four Easy Steps to Committee Success, "The Committee Charter is an essential project committee deliverable, setting boundaries, and documenting committee purpose, scope, authority, organizational structure and operational guidelines. Once documented and approved, the charter provides the foundational and procedural basis for committee operations, allowing committee business to be conducted in a consistent, productive manner".
While Charter length, complexity and formality will vary, the following questions should be addressed as related content is developed and documented:
- What is the committee purpose, mission and scope?
- What will the committee accomplish and produce?
- Why is the committee necessary?
- What are the background events leading to committee formation?
- What is the committee type (i.e. standing, ad-hoc)?
- How many members will be required to complete committee work?
- How will members be selected and assigned?
- How will resignations and terminations be handled?
- How will the committee be organized?
- What types of committee positions will be created?
- What is the code of conduct and participation guidelines?
- What are the member roles and responsibilities?
- What types of meetings will be required (regular, special, workshop, etc)?
- How often will committee meetings be held?
- Will Roberts Rules be followed during meetings and for motions?
- What types of voting procedures and thresholds will be followed?
- What are the expected deliverables to be produced by committee action?
- What is the expected committee term?
- How will the committee close operations once the mission is fulfilled?
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