Setting and agreeing on expected standards and behaviors defined by a team as best practices to work together smoothly and ensure the success of the task/project at hand.
Core team: Product Manager, Designer, Engineers
On a physical or digital/online whiteboard, create three columns of equal size and label them the “Ideas”, “Working Agreements” and “Ice Box” from left to right.
Explain to the team that as a group you are going to co-create and then agree on a set of behaviors and standards to guide how to work together.
Before writing any stickies, ask everyone to take a moment to think about what is important to them when working in a team. Encourage them to note these down privately.
Now ask that each member of the team write one agreement that they believe will help create a successful team and to add it to the “Ideas” column.
As a group read through the agreements and combine any similar agreements into a single agreement.
It is strongly advised that your working agreements cover the following topics so if these are not on the board, take the lead and add them:
If suggestions are too specific or feel unrelated to the ethos of working agreements, move them to the “Ice Box” column.
Go through each agreement as a team, reading them out loud and then initiate a vote to commit to the agreement.
An agreement is only agreed to if it receives a unanimous vote. Make sure everyone participates. If any “no” votes arise, ask the team member for clarification on what would turn their vote into a “yes.”
If accommodating this seems feasible, discuss what you can do together as a team to make it happen and adjust the written agreement to bring harmony.
If it is unfeasible to get 100% yes votes on an agreement, move it to the “Ice Box” column.
Once you have done this for every agreement - take a final poll of the team to agree on the total set of agreements. Again this requires a unanimous vote to continue. If this is not possible go back to the previous step.
Finally, post your agreements publicly and make sure everyone has access to them.
Here is an example PDF: Team working agreement document example
You have successfully completed this task when you gave a clear set of working agreements that 100% of the team have voted on and agreed to.
This is an activity that you can time box if it feels drawn out. Many of the tips embedded above are intended to help you avoid rabbit holes, but if that happens you should feel empowered to move things forward by refocusing the team, setting a timer, or forcing a decision.
Also, just because a behavior does not get added to the working agreements does not mean that a team member cannot behave that way nor ask that others behave that way. On rare occasions you may need to remind the team of this if they end up in heated disagreement over an agreement.
Team working agreement document example: