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How to Create Working Agreements for Agile Teams?

Summary

Is your tech team experiencing underperformance, missed deadlines, or unmet goals? Here are some tips on how and why creating working agreements can help you overcome all these challenges.

 

 Everyone is different with different mindset, attitude and may see the same practice differently. Similarly, having several people in a team means different habits, schedules, work styles, and mindsets, all of which can lead to unproductive moments in an agile development project.  We highly recommend the creation of working agreements to avoid these potential problems.

What is a Working Agreement?

Working agreement are guidelines that define how individual teams will work together to create a positive, productive process and achieve mutual understanding and peaceful collaboration. It captures the expectations members have on each other within the team and preserves all the deadlines and schedules included in the project assumptions.

Why Use Working Agreements?

Long gone are the days when upper management made the decisions and then everyone acted ‘because they said so’. It is high time to empower the teams and let them make decisions and act accordingly ‘because they agreed to.’ The work agreement is agreed upon by all team members, it makes everyone feel responsible to voice their opinion if someone breaks the agreement, and the offender is reminded that it’s their own word that’s on the line as he/she agreed to follow the norms. It not only develops a sense of shared responsibility but also increases members’ awareness of their own behavior  

How do you create Working Agreements?

You can use regular sticky notes, or a whiteboard to anchor these discussions. It’s really up to you. The primary duty of the scrum master i.e., the product owner in this process is to give the team an explanation of why this document can be valuable to them and what the process is going to look like. The next step is to set a timer for about five minutes and ask the team to generate as many ideas for working norms as they can and write them on sticky notes.  After the time is up, take a few minutes to review all the sticky notes as a team. Ask the team to call out any confusion they had about what the sticky note means, but not to discuss it yet.

After all the clarifications, ask them to rate each norm using the following scale. Happy face for full agreement, neutral face for questions, or sad face for disagreement. In case anyone disagrees, they have to suggest something better. All happy faces immediately become the new norm. Anything with a neutral face should be discussed further and once the team aligns on it then it becomes a norm. Any norm that includes a sad face should be discussed with the team whether it should be thrown out or revised to work.

You will probably have some duplications in the norms with this method. Work with your team to combine them into common themes and ask for suggestions for rewording to align the near-duplicated sticky notes.  At this point, you should have a set of new norms for you and your team.

Key Attributes of Valid Working Agreement

Here are the key attributes to follow when creating your own team working agreement to ensure that they are well written and executed in the most effective manner. Key Attributes-WA

  • Collaborative Effort

Every team member must feel a sense of ownership. All of them must be present when team working agreements are designed and they must add their two cents. Every member’s opinion matters, and inclusivity is the glue that holds the agreement together.

  • Visibility

Your agreement should be put in a place where it is consistently in your team’s line of sight as it is easy to forget something you’ve only seen once in a meeting. A creative way to do this is by creating a wall mural of sorts in the main workspace where the guidelines are displayed.

  • Address Touchy Subjects

Working agreements provide the perfect opportunity to address and decide a plan of action to overcome touchy subjects such as how to handle differences of opinion and conflicts, as well as under delivery, meeting schedules, and low engagement. These problems can’t be swept under the rug with the hope of them disappearing.

  • Frequent Updates

The contract should be flexible enough to accommodate the introduction of new clauses or improvement in existing ones as your team members learn more about each other or as the project progresses.

  • Keep it Short

A small list of agreements doesn’t overwhelm people and are easier to follow and remember. You should encourage your teams to use short sentences and not to make them too elaborative when forming their practices.

Scrum Values

Commitment shows that the team is dedicated to a common goal and applies to the collective actions and effort required to achieve that goal

Focus is giving undivided attention during the sprint for better clarity and devoting time to the mentioned goal to avoid resource wastage and deliver timely.

Openness allows the teams to express their concerns so that they can be addressed. The members should be open towards sharing their work progress, feedback and gaining from each other.

Courage empowers teams to undertake greater challenges and find optimized solutions, knowing they are part of a positive and supportive framework.

Respect each other’s skills, knowledge, and insights.

Working Agreement Elements

There are many elements which may be suitable in different environments. The key to creating a perfect work agreement is to create it based on the team’s weak points. This will not only save time and tension but also reduce unproductive discussions, allowing the focus to be on achieving optimum results. Here are a few you can use in your work agreement.

Scrum Master – Availability during core hours and ways to contact them in case of any emergency

Respect Everyone has a voice; hence each team member should always be given a chance to share their opinion.

Working Hours – Deciding the time and duration of meeting. Every team member has to be present at the meetings

Absence – Deciding what happens incase a member is absent during the sprint

Roles & Responsibilities – Clarifying which member is responsible for which task and what role would each member be playing in the project

Conclusion

The Working Agreement’s success is based on the team’s commitment to their established disciplines, so it is compulsory that they are agreed upon by the entire Agile Team. All productive product development teams have one thing in common: consensus. They all felt heard, included, and respected in their own right, and could clearly make the connection between the vision of the product or project and their individual purpose. Working Agreement is the perfect recipe for a fantastic experience in Agile development.

At Golpik, we implemented Agile and Scrum as our primary methodologies for web application and mobile application development.  Contact us and share your project idea. We’ll build a software that will meet your requirements and help achieve your business goals.  

Golpik Admin
November 1, 2021

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