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Working Agreements

As a team, create a list of expectations of each other so you can work together successfully and avoid misunderstandings that may come up. 

Pencil icon
Prep Time
5 mins
Stopwatch icon
Run Time
60 mins
Connected people icon
People
2-10
Puzzle pieces of people shaking hands

Working Agreements

As a team, create a list of expectations of each other so you can work together successfully and avoid misunderstandings that may come up. 

Puzzle pieces of people shaking hands
Pencil
Prep Time
5 mins
Stopwatch icon
Run Time
60 mins
Connected people icon
People
2-10

Working Agreements

As a team, create a list of expectations of each other so you can work together successfully and avoid misunderstandings that may come up.

Pencil icon
Prep Time
5 mins
Stopwatch icon
Run Time
60 mins
Connected people icon
People
2-10
Puzzle pieces of people shaking hands

Working Agreements in action

These software developers discuss their working agreements on Zoom and use Trello to capture input.

A remote campaign team brainstorms and votes for which working agreements they will commit to and captures input in Confluence.

A fundraising team’s completed Working Agreements Play.

What you'll need

Remote

Video conferencing with screen sharing

Digital collaboration tool (see templates)

In-person

Meeting space

Whiteboard or large sheet of paper

Markers

Sticky notes

Optional templates

Atlassian Templates

Instructions for running this Play

1. Prep 5 MIN

For remote teams, start by creating a collaboration document such as a Trello board or Confluence page. You can use a template provided if you’d like or create one of your own.

For in-person teams, find a whiteboard or large paper and set out sticky notes and markers in a meeting room. 

On the shared document, whiteboard or paper, create three columns or spaces and label the first “Brainstorm,” the second “Working Agreements” and the third  “Parking Lot”.

2. Set the stage 5 MIN

Open the meeting by explaining to the team that as a group you’re creating a set of behavioral agreements to guide how to work together. Ask the team to: 

  • Keep an open, curious mind
  • Practice active listening and encourage everyone to contribute
  • Avoid interrupting or dominating the conversation
TIP: PEOPLE, NOT PROCESS

This Play is about working together as people so if ideas around documenting technical processes come up, put those in the Parking Lot.

3. Reflect 5 MIN

Introduce a moment of quiet reflection by asking attendees the following questions: 

  • What is important to us as a team? What behaviors can we agree to as a team?
  • Think of teams that work together well. What do those teams do that we could adopt?
  • What can we do on this team to avoid past mistakes from other teams?

Ask everyone to jot down their responses privately.

4. Draft agreements 10 MIN

Next, ask attendees to come up with one agreement that will lead to successfully working together as a team, using their reflections as a guide. Have everyone add their ideas to the digital document or whiteboard in the Brainstorm section.

If you have a small team (4 people or fewer) have each person write down two agreements.

5. Combine ideas 10 MIN

Go through the agreements together with the team and combine any similar agreements into one agreement.

It’s important to keep the agreements high level and focused on values, not specifics. For example: “Be at the 8 am meeting by 8 am,” can be turned into “Be on time to meetings.” Add suggestions that are too specific or unrelated to working agreements to the Parking Lot space.

Brain storming with sticky notes
EXAMPLE: IDEAS

Here are some of the responses you might expect in the “Brainstorm” category. Notice some are too specific or process-oriented to be working agreements.
 

6. Vote to commit 30 MIN

Read each agreement out loud and then vote as a team to commit to the agreement.

If you get any “no” votes, ask the team member what would turn their vote into a “yes.” Discuss what you can do together as a team and perhaps adjust the agreement.

The goal of the exercise is to get a thumbs up from all team members on all agreements.


Follow-up

Share your agreements

Post your working agreements in a space visible to the whole team such as Confluence. If you used sticky notes, translate the final working agreements to one document and share it out.

Revisit regularly

Revisit your team’s working agreements periodically, especially when the team or work changes, or an agreement can no longer be upheld. 

Go through and vote to keep or change existing agreements. Then have team members brainstorm, propose, and vote on adding any additional agreements.

If an agreement can’t be upheld, discuss what might be getting in the way.

Variations

Starter questions

Come prepared with additional questions to get the team thinking. Examples include: 

  • What are our working hours?
  • What’s our preferred way to get in touch with each other?
  • How soon should we respond?
  • What are some guidelines for successful meetings?
  • Think about the best team you’ve ever been on. What was that team like?
  • Think of the team that struggled. What happened on that team?
  • What team behaviors do we want to be known for?

Lead with challenges

Prior to the Working Agreements session, collect issues the team is currently facing, either from an impediments board (see example), a Retrospective, or just known challenges. Bring these and share them at the session to help inform the working agreements.

Example impediments board
EXAMPLE: IMPEDIMENTS BOARD

Here’s how a team documented their challenges in an impediments board.


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Still have questions?

Start a conversation with other Atlassian Team Playbook users, get support, or provide feedback.

Still have questions?

Start a conversation with other Atlassian Team Playbook users, get support, or provide feedback.

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