Businessolver Blog

Setting Ground Rules with Working Agreements

Setting Ground Rules with Working Agreements
Posted on Thursday, April 3, 2014 by Businessolver Team
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Post from Businessolver’s Vice President of Product Management

At Businessolver, we are rolling out Agile methodology across the organization. Our goal is simple – deliver delight by working together as a team to create quality solutions for our clients in a predictable and sustainable way. Agile provides a framework to realize that goal, and one of tools we use to get there is a Working Agreement.

WHAT IS A WORKING AGREEMENT?

A Working Agreement is a document created by individual teams to establish the values and norms that will govern their interactions. Working Agreements:

  • Clarify roles and expectations
  • Help us hold each other accountable
  • Provide a backdrop for productive conflict

Our product development teams and client services teams each got together during Agile training to create their unique Working Agreements. Each agreement reflected the unique personalities that make up the team, as well as the aspirations of the team. Below are examples of each of the elements of a Working Agreement:

  • Clarify roles and expectations.When an action item is assigned to a team member, the sender must clearly define the deliverable and the due date.
  • Hold each other accountable. When a team member has a question, the knowledge owner commits to getting back to them by the end of the day.
  • Backdrop for positive conflict. We will be on time and only have one conversation during daily stand-up meetings.

These statements may sound obvious, and perhaps unnecessary, but by documenting expectations when stress levels are low, the Working Agreement provides a reference point when stress levels rise.

EXAMPLES OF WORKING AGREEMENTS IN ACTION

  • Kathy is assigned a project that is due the same day, but she doesn’t understand the expectation. She could reference the Working Agreement and say something such as, “Remember the Working Agreement? I am going to need more information and more time to complete this request.”
  • Bill is new to his role and has a question for Ken who doesn’t have the time to coach him. Bill could say, “Ken, I am sorry to bother you, but our Working Agreement outlines that you will share your knowledge with me.”
  • Two people come in late to a daily stand-up meeting. The team has to spend time recapping the conversation to those individuals. The team could say, “Please be mindful that our Working Agreement says that we will be on time. Is there anything we can do to ensure that happens consistently?”

These examples prove how Working Agreements can help diffuse potentially tense situations. Working Agreements take emotion out of the equation and allow teams to reference facts, not feelings. It is a powerful tool for a team.

Consider creating your own working agreement. It could be with your team, your peers, a cross-functional group, or even your family! Please share your experiences with us via Twitter (@businessolver), Facebook (Bsolver), LinkedIn (Businessolver) or Google+ (+businessolver). We would love to hear how you use your own Working Agreement!