How Great Working Agreements Help Agile Teams Thrive
"Great things happen when teams have a clear, shared purpose and a way of working together that honors each person's contribution."
- Lyssa Adkins
One of the first things I do when I start working with a new team as a Product Manager is ensure I understand the team’s way of working, either through the reading of an existing document on the team’s way of working, and/or through observation by attending team rituals and meetings.
Working Agreements play an important role in Agile Methodology. They establish a shared understanding of how the team will work together and this shared understanding leads to improved team morale and, among other things, increased quality of work and productivity.
This week I want to touch on why Working Agreements matter, and some tips on how you can work with your team to create some great working agreements together!
Why Working Agreements Matter
Working Agreements actively build a culture of trust accountability, and respect within teams. With a clear understanding of expectations for themselves and their teammates, team members can more effectively tackle any emerging issues.
Working Agreements can address common challenges such as communication breakdowns, clashing priorities, and ambiguous roles and responsibilities (which can go hand in hand with your own playbooks for the roles you’ve hired in).
For instance, a working agreement could suggest that team members communicate blockers or dependencies using a particular avenue or method. With these well-defined guidelines in place, teams can resolve issues before they escalate into significant hurdles.
How to Foster Great Working Agreements to Life
When crafting working agreements, there are a few steps you can take to ensure they can turn out great. First, it’s worth initiating a conversation about the team’s shared core values and priorities, such as open communication, trust, or a commitment to high-quality work. You can use these identified values and priorities to outline specific team norms and expectations. This process might involve setting communication expectations, decision-making protocols, or even ways to celebrate successes together.
Ensuring that all team members have an opportunity to contribute to the working agreements is crucial. You must foster an open and honest discussion, and be ready to revise and refine the agreements as everyone reaches a consensus. Emphasising inclusivity and active participation from all team members throughout this process will lead to more effective working agreements.
When it comes to implementing and enforcing working agreements, keep the following in mind as well:
- Regularly assess and update the agreements to ensure their ongoing relevance and effectiveness, perhaps during retrospectives or other team meetings. Consider doing this once a quarter or at least once or twice a year as new team members come on board and team members move to new teams.
- Encourage team members to hold each other accountable for upholding the agreements and voicing any concerns or issues.
- Address any breaches of the working agreement in a respectful and constructive manner, through one-on-one conversations as needed. And celebrate the wins that involve the established working agreements as well!
Outstanding working agreements empower agile teams to flourish by fostering a culture of trust, accountability, and respect. Engaging all team members in the creation process and consistently revisiting and updating the agreements give you the best change in ensuring their effectiveness in tackling common challenges. Keep in mind that the secret to thriving working agreements lies in open communication, active involvement, and a decication to ongoing improvement.
Resources & References
- "Defining the role of a software engineer" - Faster Times
- "The essential guide to agile team working agreements" - Swarmia
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