Getting started with team working agreements

Today we look at how getting started with team working agreements will set you on a path to a high performing team.

Team working agreements are essential to help everyone in your team learn how to work with each other. They allow us to codify the responsibilities and actions we take, and they are a great first step towards a fully self-organising team.

It’s important that the team defines their own working agreements collaboratively. This helps to ensure that the team shares the responsibility for how they work together, and they can self-police any breaches of the rules.

Telling a team how to behave/work with each other won’t build the commitment to those actions; it’s got to come from within.

When a new member joins your team, they can quickly get up to speed with how the rest of the group works by reviewing the shared team working agreements.

What is a team working agreement

  • Collaborative document
  • Shared understanding of how members of the team work with each other
  • List of behaviours describing the way we work with each other
  • Solid foundation for an awesome team
Example team working agreements

We can see above that this team has discussed and agreed on:

  • How to tackle bugs
  • How to tackle tech debt
  • When to raise a spike if they’re unsure of something
  • Time of their daily stand up
  • When to let people know they are on holiday
  • How to estimate work
  • Meetings when computers aren’t allowed
  • How to ensure that their product backlog items have the appropriate level of detail at the right times
  • When they get some personal time to hack

How to get started

Like most things in Scrum, team working agreements will emerge over time. To get started, just put in a meeting with your team as soon as possible, and discuss the merits of team working agreements, then agree on a few.

As a Scrum Master, I would then recommend reviewing your team working agreements every sprint retrospective for a while (until you notice they aren’t changing that much anymore).

Once you have a firm set of team working agreements, you can then refer back to them when something changes, or if the team starts to break them.

You could even have a team working agreement to review the team working agreements every n months.

Summary

Each of your scrum teams should have their own, self-defined team working agreements. These should be highly visible and easily accessible so that you can refer to them at a glance.

Make it fun. Make it unique. Add some colour, illustrate them. They are one of the core foundations of your team and what you do here will directly influence the culture you are trying to nurture. Great teams produce great products!

I hope you enjoyed this article, feel free to share with anyone else you think will find this useful

Stephen Waring
Stephen Waring

I’m an enthusiastic and energetic Scrum Master who loves everything about Agile!