You may have heard about Team Working Agreements (TWA), but you may wonder what they are, why they’re important and how they’re created. Basically, TWAs help with the team formation process. They help teams get through Tuckman’s stages of group development forming, storming, norming, and performing.
- Forming – This is when the team first meets and learns about the work (and is typically on their best behavior).
- Storming – This occurs once the team starts working together. People may no longer be on their best behavior and are encountering conflicts.
- Norming – When conflicts occur, the team members learn how to trust each other and work through their differences.
- Performing – Once the team gets through the Storming and Norming phase, they determine the best way to work together.
So, what is a TWA? It’s a mutually defined document that sets the norms and guidelines: a social contract, for how a team works together. Specifically, it sets the team’s ground rules and helps define the team culture. By defining these concepts, it sets expectations for the team, defines responsibilities and accountability. Over time this will help the team build trust.
When should we create the TWA?
The optimal time to create the TWA is before the project begins. But if you’re on a project that has already started, it’s not too late to gain the advantages of having one.
Who creates the TWA?
The entire team builds the TWA and is responsible for maintaining it.
How do we create a TWA?
To start building the TWA, it’s important to first get the team motivated. Begin a TWA session with a simple ice breaker. For example, ask each team member to share their favorite travel destination or hobby, activity, or quote.
Next, begin defining the document. There are many ways to do this. Below are three approaches:
- Start with an outline of areas or questions you would like to include. Discuss them with the team or provide sticky notes and put suggestions on a board under each area. With either approach, allow the team to create new sections as needed. Below are some examples of sections:
- Team values
- Ground rules
- Dealing with difficult issues (e.g., a teammate not meeting commitments)
- Asking for help
- Escalating issues
- Being accountable to each other
- Here is an example template from the Scrum Alliance.
- Or it could be a simple list like:
- Support each other
- Raise concerns promptly
- No finger pointing or blaming
- Take pride in your work
- Start meetings on time
It can also include fun sections like:
- Team name
- Team motto
- Team mascot/logo
Overall, the Team Working Agreement should be a brief document that everyone agrees to follow and is quickly understood by the team. Once the initial work on the agreement is completed, it should be displayed prominently where the team can see it. If your team is remote, post it online (e.g., on a SharePoint Site) where it will be visible to the whole team. So, who is responsible if someone doesn’t follow the agreement? It is the whole team’s responsibility to remind others when they stray from the agreement. In addition, this is a living document that must be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure it’s still relevant. Finally, if you have any additional questions around Team Working Agreements, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at any time. We’d love to help you get started.