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Can We All Just Get Along?

Writing a Working Agreement

At Synetec we pride ourselves on using “The Synetec Way”. We believe that building a working environment that is respectful can be facilitated with a working agreement. Making sure everyone on the team is given the opportunity to input on how they want to work and how they would like to be treated is essential making sure everyone feels safe at work.

Why write a working agreement?

Each time we start a new project with a new team our Agile coach facilitates the creation of a working agreement. While the team often knows each other personally they may have never worked together on a project. Don’t assume the team will naturally have the same understanding and expectations of terms and concepts.

Writing a working agreement isn’t about setting a contract that you can then hold against people if they make mistakes. They are a set of commitments, not unlike a sprint goal, that the team will try to uphold.

Why write a working agreement for an external partner?

One of Synetec’s offerings is team augmentation, where we help companies who have an existing team and need either an additional team or support in growing the maturity of their team.

When working with an external team it is also important to create a working agreement. Unlike with an internal team, there might not be the ease and comfort when you initially start working with an external team. Agreeing to standards and expectations will help ease the integration process.

What should you include in a working agreement?

When writing a working agreement there are some foundational topics you should consider including.

  1. Being respectful of people (ideas, concerns, suggestions)
  2. Team availability (core hours, meeting times)
  3. Testing plan and definition of done

A working agreement can also include:

  1. Preferred method of communication (instant messaging, emails)
  2. Standard formatting for code reviews
  3. How often to update tickets

How do you write a working agreement?

Building a working agreement from scratch can be daunting for a newly formed team, so we like to start with a few items that seem likely to pass with a unanimous vote. As an example, “One person talks at a time”. By giving the team a few starter ideas you are helping familiarise themselves with the process and hopefully inspiring some ideas.

Once you’ve presented your initial ideas, give your team time to think of their own. To avoid judgement, consider having everyone write theirs down on a post-it and stick them up on the wall. You can then group identical or similar ideas. This both helps display consensus and initiate discussion.

The team must reach consensus for each item on the list. If consensus is not agreed then don’t include it. Be careful not to force an issue or idea, even if it has some support among the group. Everyone must feel bought in.

A working agreement is not a magic elixir and won’t resolve all issues with a dysfunctional team, but it can ease issues and encourage better communication. If you’d like to know more about the Synetec Way or just discuss working agreements then please drop me a line, I’m always happy to chat.

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