In the early stage of team formation, normally shortly after a team is put together, it is normal to start noticing some conflicts or frictions between team members, maybe due to different personalities, different ways in working, inexperience in collaborating, unhealthy personal habits, etc.
To help a team get through a more storming stage (forming > storming > norming), nothing better than creating a common ground: simple, direct team working agreements that can ease daily interactions, help resolve differences, and promote more appreciation or respect between team members – foster a good working environment.
Scrumming the Agreements
At the time some teams at my organization (POs included) were still trying “get the hang” out of writing users stories and grooming the backlog, so what came to my mind:
- Why not do this team working agreements slightly differently?
- Let’s “Scrum” these team working agreements and get more out of the exercise then the actual agreements!
So I prepared the exercise writing a user story (new functionality) for our product (teams) that would be groomed (high priority backlog item) and implemented in the next sprint (retrospective).
I wrote a “poor” user story deliberately (value/purpose, format/style), so that the teams could use their recent learnings, references and practices in getting a backlog item “ready”, as well as reassuring it is actually “done”.
Backlog item before grooming (non-ready)
As a manager I want to create a set of rules So that I can make teams follow and avoid conflicts
- Rules will be followed by all teams
- Rules must be detailed as much as possible
- There is no limit of rules
- No cell phones in events
- No laptops in events (stand-up/retro events)
- No chatting/messaging in events (e.g. skype)
- Events must start on time
- Rules must be handed over to the manager so he can use them when necessary
Backlog item after grooming (ready)
As a facilitator I want to establish a set of team working agreements So that we create a better, trustful and safer working environment
- Team agreements are rules or behaviors that team members should agree and follow
- The agreements must be effective:
- simple and direct – that fit on a post-it
- limited in number – more than 10 less than 20
- enforceable – change/impact on behavior
- The agreements should be made available for all team members so they can be:
- referred daily or in ceremonies
- shared with “new” team members
- used as recommendations for other teams
Sprint backlog item (done) – Team A
Sprint backlog item (done) – Team B
I came out to be an interesting way in achieving the goal and using some Scrum principles and practices:
- getting backlog item “ready”: grooming session with the team (role played PO) creating clarity, understanding the “who”, “what”, “why”, questioning and re-assuring value, confirming acceptance criteria is feasible and testable,
- getting the sprint backlog item “done”: collaboratively identifying agreements and confirming the acceptance criteria is met.