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Create and Communicate Foundation Documents

Page history last edited by James Weaver 8 years, 2 months ago

Author: Joshua Yabut

Date Created: 02/10/2013


Mission Statement

An effective mission statement should include a project’s purpose/goal and internal role assignment at minimum. This section was developed with XFree86’s project mission statement as a guide (XFree86, 2013).

XFree86 was a non-profit organization that pioneered an open-source graphical user interface for operating systems. They began work and virtual teaming in the early 1990’s when computers were still uncommon in the workplace. Many lessons can be learned from the open-source community because they are the early adopters of virtual collaboration.

Project purpose and goals

The development and understanding of a project’s purposes and goals are critical to virtual team success. Purpose and goals can differ at every point in an organizational but they must be aligned to meet or support one mission set. During complex projects, purposes and goals of teams can become clouded to the point that mission sets are forgotten. This is especially probable in matrix organizations where functional employees support both a functional area and are assigned to work on a project.

In order to minimize the possibility of conflicting goals within an organization, the purpose and goals of a project should be thoroughly analyzed. This analysis aids in keeping the virtual team oriented to reach goals and clarifies the organizational structure. Certain questions to consider during the development of the project’s purpose(s) and goal(s) are:

  • What is the organization’s goal/purpose?
  • What is the parent department’s goal/purpose?
  • What should my project accomplish?
  • How should my project accomplish this?
  • Is the project large enough where developing teams are necessary?
  • What work should be delegated to the teams/individuals?
  • What positions/teams are critical to the project?

The project purpose/goal developed from the purpose and goal analysis should be clear and concise enough that an outsider of your organization could understand it.  It should answer the “who, what, and why” of a project.
Organizing and tasking the project

Once a project’s purpose has been developed, the project organizational structure should be devised. This is a prerequisite to developing and assigning roles. Larger projects typically require the use of teams to efficiently manage a workforce. Smaller projects are more effectively managed without the use of team leads. Regardless of whether projects will be organized down to teams or individuals, the subordinate units will require clarity in their role and purpose in the project. The project organizational statement should encompass the key tasks and deliverables of the subordinate units.

Example mission statement

Project purpose
The purpose of Project X is to develop and deliver a self-replicating species to peacefully oversee the Earth and its resources.  This project will aid the company by reducing overhead costs associated with monitoring and maintaining the flora and fauna of planets in the universe.  This project is complete when development, testing and delivery to planet Earth have been successfully conducted. Project X is divided into three functional groups.

The “PX-PMO” is the project management office and will be responsible for administrative tasks including:

  • Supports virtual collaboration between teams by maintaining networking systems
  • Facilitates virtual collaboration by continuing to refine virtual team procedures
  • Maintaining cost and scheduling documentation
  • Communicating with company management
  • Coordination of independent quality assurance tests
  • Procurement of project resources

The “BioFab” team is tasked with developing and fabricating biological models which includes:

  • Development of DNA structure
  • Creating and documenting fabrication plan
  • Carbon materials feasibility testing

The “DevMech” team is tasked with developing and fabricating the delivery mechanism which includes:

  • Development of interstellar delivery module
  • Development of module flight plan
  • Simulations testing of interstellar delivery module

Project Charter

This section quickly overviews the minimum information needed for all project charters and then delves into virtual teaming procedures that needs to be added to project charters. For more information concerning general project charter information, read PMBOK Guide and Standards.

To say that project charters are important to a project is an understatement.  A project cannot officially start until one has been developed.  A properly formatted PMBOK-style project charter will include at minimum: (PMBOK Project Charter Template, 2013)

  • Project purpose
  • Project objectives
  • Requirements
  • Scope
  • Deliverables

Project charters for projects that utilize virtual teams require special attention to codify virtual teaming procedures in addition to the normal requirements.

Virtual Teaming Document

Project managers may choose to add virtual teaming procedures to a section in the project charter or may choose to insert them in their own independent document. The author prefers to create an independent virtual teaming document that is referenced in the project charter.

Virtual collaboration is a foreign concept to many people and additionally, many organizations. Because virtual collaboration is not an activity many are familiar with, it is especially important to document procedures relating to virtual collaboration. The VTD can serve as a handbook and document that formalizes the types of interactions in virtual teaming.


Expectation management plays a critical role in the virtual teaming document and relieving employee uncertainty regarding virtual teaming. It is necessary for a project manager to develop expectations in virtual teaming in order to have a benchmark for performance reviews. The project manager has great leeway in developing and maintaining the norms in the virtual environment. Whether missing a teleconference is to be treated the same as missing an in-person scheduled meeting is just one of the areas a project manager can influence.

Typical expectations a project manager can set for virtual workers include:

  • Attendance policy for teleconferences
  • Specified non-negotiable work hours
  • Contact methods to be used
  • Timeline for responding to emails


Virtual teaming procedures can vary from project to project. The project manager has great authority in developing the procedures used in the virtual teaming document.  However, the procedure section developed in the virtual teaming document should be based upon the initial training methodology.

During the procedures portion of the VTD a project manager should discuss the primary and alternative methods of communication. Typically this is e-mail correspondence with instant messaging as an alternative. Methods of communication for teleconferences can be anything from telephone to computer-based video tele-conferencing platforms. Project managers should pay special attention that the procedures are developed in the least technical language possible in order to allow for better comprehension among non-technical workers.

Project managers should codify teleconference procedures. Frequent formal communication in virtual teaming can impact productivity as much as than frequent in-person meetings. A project manager should acknowledge that project sub-teams may plan to hold teleconferences when developing the teleconference tempo. Project managers choosing to utilize a slideshow as a visual aid for the teleconference should discuss what type of information it should contain and who is responsible for its creation.

Technology can be finicky. Contingency plans are especially important in virtual teaming.  If teleconferences are dependent on a proprietary system then a project manager should plan for the instance that it will be unavailable. Contingency plans can be as simple as a procedure to reschedule a teleconference, or can discuss the use of an alternative software package.

People can be finicky too. Contingency plans should be developed to discuss who will assume roles in the event key personnel are unable to attend a scheduled event. A well-performing virtual team will have all of its members ready to assume a role one level up.


Next: Preparing for the Kick-Off Meeting




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