In Bruce Tuckman’s classic “Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing” model for team development – a new group begins to really solidify as a team when it starts to define the norms of how it will work. One of the most effective ways to support this norming phase is to have the team develop its own “working agreements.”
A “working agreement” defines how the team agrees it will operate. The working agreement is defined by the team, is specific to a particular team, and is managed and updated by the team. In other words – a working agreement is not something handed to the team. Instead, it is created by the team, using their language. It documents their agreements for operation, and is often physically posted near where the team works.
While some groups may want to thoroughly document every possible situation, it is important to keep the working agreement list short – with only the items most important to the team. Over time, the team will revise and add to their list as they gain experience working together.
Potential topics for a working agreement include some (but probably not all) of the following:
- Collaboration – how will the team work together? How is information shared?
- Communication – what & how will the team communicate with each other? Tools?
- Regular meetings – when are regular meetings for the team held? (sprint planning, daily stand-up, sprint review, retrospective, backlog refinement)
- Definition of Ready – criteria needed for a story or project to be ready for the team to begin work
- Definition of Done – criteria needed for a story or project to be considered “completed” by the team
- Decision Making – how will the team make decisions? How will the outcome be communicated?
- Handling conflict – how will team members handle interpersonal issues?
- Handling obstacles or impediments
- Core Hours – when will the team be in the office, when can meetings be scheduled
- Time management – what will the team do to manage time effectively and to respect each other’s time?
- Values – what’s important to the team
- How metrics & information radiators are updated
- Commitments that help the team run smoothly