All across the world, we love creating, forming, breaking-apart, re-forming, improving, and supporting teams. Teams is the new structure for businesses everywhere.
This is for good reason. Teams have been instrumental in breaking through barriers, identifying and executing on complex work, led changes in culture, and solved difficult problems. All companies should strongly consider using teams.
Once a team is formed (be it agile or otherwise), it is important to have a shared goal that all strive to achieve as well as a shared set of team agreements. Many of the responses and actions that individuals take within a team are done so without the explicit understanding by the entire team. This can lead to confusion and miscommunication which ultimately ends with poor outcomes.
Below are the 3 steps to achieve a useful and powerful set of team agreements for your agile team. Enjoy!
Step 1: Brainstorm and Prioritize Candidate Agreements
To have the greatest diversity of opinions and ideas, it is critical to have each member brainstorm as many candidate agreements as possible. A great format to use from Thomas Kuryura is the format “You can count on me to…” with the action which you then add a behaviour.
Once each team member has written many down on sticky notes, then it is that same individuals responsibility to prioritize their candidate from most important (#1) to least important.
Step 2: Share and Vote on Candidate Agreements
Next have each team member to share their candidate agreements to the entire team. After each candidate agreement is presented, ask the rest of the team if this would be a good agreement. If at least one person agrees then post it for all to see on a whiteboard or wall.
Repeat this process until all candidates are shared and either added to the list or discarded.
Step 3: Post and Keep Alive the Team Agreements
Now that the team has agreed on a set of team agreements, add corresponding actions to each of them. These actions may include presenting them at a future meeting, displaying them on the team wall, sending them to management, or extending invitations for people to participate in a workshop.
Also, it is critical that the team keep referring to their team agreements. A great way to start is by visualizing them near the team space or adding them to communication channels. The team would need to review those agreements regularly to make sure that they are relevant, followed, and updated as needed.
Some Closing Thoughts on Team Agreements
Team agreements can be a powerful tool to make implicit behaviours explicit and followed by an entire team. This simple exercise is based on the article by Thomas Kuryura entitled “You Can Count On Me — Team Agreements” and my own experience as an Agile Coach, Trainer, and Mentor over the past 10+ years. Agreements can greatly support a team identity. Teams are powerful entities that can be harnessed for gains in productivity, quality, culture, leadership, and effectiveness. All a team needs is a common goal and a set of agreements that the team follows and updates.
Enjoy your journey helping teams or being part of teams in your professional life. Keep up the great contributions to those around you.
Paul J. Heidema