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How to Create and Adopt Working Agreements for Your Software Team Without Endless Meetings (or tears)

How to Create and Adopt Working Agreements for Your Software Team Without Endless Meetings (or tears)
Photo by Tim Graf / Unsplash

Great teams using working agreements to clarify how they work together.

But you probably think that getting everyone to agree how to work is impossible.

So here’s how you can quickly adopt working agreements:

Step 1 – Conduct a Team Radar exercise

Team Radar helps the team level-set on how well they’re living up to their values.

You’ll want to start with a baseline of where the team is today. If you don’t have team values, adopt something like the XP values to start. Then, at your next retrospective conduct the Team Radar exercise.

Now you’ve got a baseline and can choose where to focus your energy.

Step 2 – Choose where to focus

Working agreements help clarify how the team works together.

But they also help the team focus on what’s worth improving. So to get focused, have the team pick 1-2 areas of improvement based on the output of the Team Radar. These areas can be as simple as picking 1-2 of the team’s values.

Once you have your areas of focus, it’s time to generate ideas.

Step 3 – Generate potential working agreements

The easiest way to generate a lot of ideas for working agreements is with a formula:

“We <action> when <event>”

Examples:

  • “We pair program when we we write production code.”
  • “We show features in production when we demo our work.”
  • “We get online at 8AM when we start the work day.”

When each member of the team has generated a few ideas, it’s time to choose.

Step 4 – Choose and unanimously adopt agreements

To make sure the team adheres to the agreements, there has to be unanimous support.

  1. Use dot voting to find the agreements with the most support.
  2. Choose the top 5-6 ideas.
  3. Seek unanimous support for up to 3 ideas.

Now the team has picked and agreed to up to three working agreements.

Step 5 – Start using them

To get the most out of your agreements, you have to actually use them.

Writing down the agreements and making them visible for the team goes a long way. It also helps to frequently reference them when they’re being used. And they should be a frequent topic at retrospectives, to ensure you’re always inspecting and adapting.

You’re now all set with 3 new working agreements for your team.