The transformation to Agile for any organization requires knowledge of the methodology. However, it’s not just about knowing what Agile is. It’s also about taking that methodology and applying it in practice. One of the core concepts of Agile for any development team to embrace is the concept of working agreements. The discipline of the team comes straight from working agreements it establishes on its own.
Introducing Working Agreements
Do you remember going to elementary school and your teacher having you agree to specific rules of the classroom? Things like, “Crayons must be shared.” Or, “If you have a question raise your hand.” You may not realize it, but you were part of working agreements in that space. Everyone agreed to raise their hands and not break the crayons. It is the same idea in the Agile world. The goals of the working agreement are two-fold: 1) to get the development team collaborating effectively, and 2) to get everyone to agree to, and follow, a set of explicit, definite expectations.
A working agreement is not meant to dictate precisely how work gets done, but more to emphasize team behaviors that will keep everyone productive, positive, and accountable.
How to Create the Working Agreement
Working agreements are the creation of the development team. Within Scrum, the Scrum Master is the facilitator of the session. The development team and Product Owner are also in the room. The entire development team has the power to create working agreements. It is the idea of self-empowerment that makes this so useful. It is not a leader dictating how the team works, but rather the team coming together to define what makes sense for each of them to follow.
Having it posted in a designated area helps the teams. If your team is not co-located, the working agreement should be readily available on a virtual folder accessible by everyone.
Why Working Agreements Are Helpful
A working agreement allows a team to clarify the team member behaviors and expectations, which benefits everyone on the team. It helps reinforce a clear understanding of what is considered good behavior and what is considered good communication. Enhanced awareness of these positive and negative behaviors can encourage self-organization, accountability and discipline. Team members can also reference the working agreement when attempting to remove tension when team norms are being challenged. Here are a few other benefits:
The Make-Up of the Working Agreement
You may be wondering what exactly goes into a working agreement. Some examples of what working agreements may include are the following:
Show respect for the team of each team member.
Any change to the Sprint Backlog requires Product Owner approval.
Always adhere to the Definition of Done criteria for User Stories.
Update the Backlog before each day’s daily stand-up event.
Keep cell phones away during every Agile Event.
Many working agreement items seem basic, but it is the creation by the team that makes each powerful. Each holds one another accountable for adherence.
Below is an example of a comprehensive working agreement. This working agreement was built with graphics software. They don’t necessarily need to be created digitally. Do what works best for your team, even if it means using crayons and sticky notes.
Each development team is different. There is no cooker cutter agreement works for everyone. It’s up to the team to come together, define their style and work approach, and use everything Agile and Scrum has to offer to deliver iterative value to stakeholders and customers.