Creating a team manifesto with customers/clients

One item that I have had a lot of emails about since my presentation at PMXPO was around ground rules/ deciding on working arrangements with clients. I briefly touched on this topic in a previous blog but wanted to extend it here. I wanted to answer some of the core questions that I have received. Creating a team manifesto /charter is a great way to ensure alignment and have clear expectation management around how you want to work, what needs to be considered and what’s important for you all to be a success in this project.

  1. When should you discuss this?
    1. I would strongly recommend that this is done at the start of any project. I normally do this during the Kick off and we spend between 10-15 minutes going through the ground rules. With my internal team, we may already have a list of things that we will use as the ‘basis’ for how we want to work with the client.
  2. What do you need to factor into these discussions?
    1. There are a few things that I would recommend that you consider before entering into discussions with your customer:
      1. What is reasonable to expect/ask? E.g. durations on turnaround / ways of working?
      2. Is it suitable to request towards your customer? This means not airing internal laundry in front of the client and keeping all working situations professional and productive
      3. If the tables were turned, would you be happy with the proposed suggestions?
  3. How do you go about discussing / agreeing on ground rules with a “customer”?
    1. I have tried several ways of bringing this to the client’s attention. Holding a small ‘workshop’ to come up with ideas / agree on a full list is the easiest way to achieve the goal without costing a lot of effort or time from both parties. Be aware that you will need to prepare a ‘base’ list from which you can work on and elaborate on.
    2. Within the list that you will bring to the workshop, make sure that there’s nothing in there that would be of detriment to your ability to manage the project, lead effectively or affect your ability to deliver the project.
  4. What are the top tips you can recommend for a successful outcome?
    1. Create a list in advance of ‘base’ rules that you can work with
      1. Make sure all of the suggestions are SMART
        1. Specific
        2. Measurable
        3. Accurate
        4. Realistic
        5. Time bound
    2. Run through this list with your internal team first to make sure that they agree/ have their buy in
    3. Understand your client and what they might come up with to anticipate any potential areas which you’d need to align on.
    4. Get it signed off / agreed by everyone. When we’re onsite, we all put our names on the piece of paper as our ‘informal’ agreement. You could always ask for an initial / informal sign off from all attendees at the end (HINT: Put it on MS Teams so that everyone accesses the same version).
  5. What to avoid?
    1. Avoid putting rules on the list which will make your life harder
    2. Do not put anything that would invalidate your contract / agreed terms
    3. Don’t rush this. Give everyone the chance to agree/ add their thoughts to this process and you will get better engagement
  6. What to do after?
    1. If you are located in a physical office with your team, I would recommend getting the charter printed twice. One for each location and have it in a key location in each team room. If you are working virtually, you can use this as a background during calls or you can send it out as an image after the session and make sure that it’s referred to during retrospectives / workshops as “how you want to work”
  7. What if the client doesn’t want to take part?
    1. This can happen! I always try to recommend that if we do not have a formal charter, we can at least do expectation management to align and agree on how we want to work with each other and what is important for them / what they are expecting from a vendor. This always sets the right tone as ultimately, I am just trying to understand how I can support them! You can always write up these informal rules and share them internally so that your team is aware of these expectations.
  8. What if the client keeps breaking the rules they’ve agreed to?
    1. This is where my role as facilitator comes in! I make them aware of the deviation, try to understand why it happened and look at getting them back on track/ aligned with our ‘ground rules’. This can happen both ways, so you also need to be aware of this from your own team!
    2. If your client keeps breaking the rules, you can simply rely on the terms and conditions laid out in the SOW/Contract and consider alerting the Steering Committee if the client is not willing to work together/ is causing conflict within the project team.
      1. I have done this in one project as I saw it as a massive risk for my ability as a vendor to be able to deliver the project. The client in question had severe internal politics and was looking for a scapegoat to try and blame delays/issues on. By having clear ground rules laid out and seeing where these deviations were occuring, it gave me the heads up that something was not going right within the project itself.

List of potential items for your list:

Here is a list of things that I have used in previous Team Manifesto’s.

Ground rules example
  • We respect one another
  • We do not expect communication outside of agreed working hours
  • We will always try our best
  • Brutal honesty
  • We want readable, clean code.
  • Fail first, learn quicker
  • Meetings start/end on time
    • Every meeting has a clear agenda
  • Silence = Acceptance
  • Deliver quality
  • Email Vs. Call Vs. Meeting
  • We own our tasks
  • Members will complete the tasks they’ve committed to
  • We won’t make assumptions


Setting out clear ground rules and expectation management with your clients and customers is a great way to ensure alignment on your project as well as starting the project ‘on the right foot’. Take the time to understand the project, deliverables, teams that you are working with and this will help you create and build a charter that works for everyone and is SMART!

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