How to create a highly performing, respectful and happy team – this insight bring useful tips on how to establish a positive and motivating working context, in a culture of respect and mutual support

Base of the good team work is the common mindset that all team mates should share. Creating a set of working agreements can be the first step for creating a positive and productive team dynamics. Applying them promotes a culture of understanding and respect, and shared responsibility. However they should not be imposed, but discussed and decided together, and more importantly, they should evolve together with the team.

Creating Working Agreements – Simple Guidelines

Start by creating a common ground – a shared understanding of why the team needs working agreements. Of course, in this phase the team will need a facilitator, a coach or a Scrum master, a fundamental figure that can help understand the importance of commitment to working together and supporting each other in order to reach the common goal.

Each team member can write their own notion of shared protocols and patterns of interaction, and through a group discussion the team filters those that they all agree upon. The team agrees on actions that can be done, should/should not be done and must/must not do in different situations.

In her article “Norms, Values, Working Agreements, Simple Rules” Esther Derby precisely describes, “Effective teams have a shared approach to work (though not a rigid process).  They explicitly work out agreements about “How we do things.” The team’s agreements evolve to address both challenges and aspirations.  Teams find a way to talk about what matters, and decided how they’ll act out those priorities day to day.” Mrs. Derby also brings the overview of the different types of agreements a team should agree upon, for example:

Values

The statements of what is important.  Value may guide behavior, but are not, in themselves, actionable. Values often represent the espoused beliefs in the organization–which don’t always match the values in action. Example: Balance work and life. (But pay attention to what really happens.)

Group Norms

Informal, often implicit standards of behavior that develop from the interactions of the group. Example: (By observing the group, we can deduces that…) It’s acceptable to be late for meetings.

Ground Rules

Statements of expected behavior for specific times, places, and situations. Example: (Posted in the meeting room) Don’t interrupt each other.

Working Agreements

Protocols that the group develops and agrees to follow. The protocols aim to forge commitment and a shared approach that will help the team meet their goal.

Example: Code is *done* when all programmer and acceptances tests pass, the customer accepts the story, and the code is checked into the development branch.

Simple Rules

Short statements that guide interactions and decision making within the group and across other groups within the organization.  Simple rules can generalize across many situations, and make values actionable. Simple rules aim at bringing coherence across the organization. Example: Use every failure as an opportunity to learn.

Of course, these sets of agreements are not necessary, but they can help and facilitate team work. Some of the useful tips can be summed up in the list below[1]

For both simple rules and working agreements, the list should be…

  • focused on amplifying desired patterns of behavior
  • aimed at helping the team achieve their task and team-work goals
  • generalizable
  • minimum specifications
  • short: no more than seven items on each list (fewer than seven is even better)

This is a starting point for you team: step one – create a common protocols that will allow the team to be more efficient and productive, to work through conflicts and issues more easily, and finally to be happier.

If you want to learn more about best ways to create you team’s working agreements be sure to check out these insightful articles:

Norms, Values, Working Agreements, Simple Rules by Esther Derby

Team ground rules and working agreements by Sandy Mamoli

Creating A Team Working Agreement by Chris Sterling

How to Create Agile Team Working Agreements by Tirrell Payton

[1] Norms, Values, Working Agreements, Simple Rules by Esther Derby