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5 Tips for Introducing Working Agreements to Your Team

5 things to keep in mind when approaching your team about implementing working agreements.

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Implementing Working Agreements

In our article "Why Should I Implement Working Agreements with My Team" we defined Working Agreements as "a set of well-defined rules, guidelines, or expectations that your team has agreed to follow in order to achieve a common goal." They can include anything that is relevant to your team's workflow and often involve goals based on communication, collaboration, processes, or work distribution.

If you are interested in introducing the concept of Working Agreements to your team, here are 5 things that we recommend you keep in mind when approaching your team:

Remain Empathetic

As I mentioned above, working agreements can be difficult to introduce if it is not wholly understood by the one who is trying to establish them. At first glance to engineers, they can seem like a way to tighten the grip of control but when executed properly, working agreements are meant to include the team in their creation. By including your team in the creation of your collection of working agreements they will have more incentive to follow them, to contribute to the success of a working agreement, and potentially surface new issues.

Clearly Define the Working Agreement

Working agreements should always define clear expectations such as expected work hours, maximum concurrent PRs, the minimum amount of PRs reviewed on a weekly basis, etc. If there is room for misinterpretation, it’s likely a weak definition for a working agreement. By setting clear expectations, engineers will have a better understanding of their responsibilities and will achieve bite-sizes goals on a regular basis which can lead to increased productivity and satisfaction.

Adapt to Change

Update or modify working agreements as your needs change. Even if your workflow has not changed, it is good practice to revisit your agreements on a quarterly basis to evaluate if they have provided value or have become irrelevant. If your team has agreed on a maximum of 5 working agreements and 1 of them have consistently been met on a weekly basis, it may be worth considering changing that working agreement to something that needs an adjustment.

Encourage Accountability

Just like the word feedback, accountability gets a bad rap. It is often understood as something that is inherently negative but when done out of respect and with a constructive intention, accountability is the quickest way to identify and fix a mistake - this is what we like to call learning.

If your engineers are holding themselves accountable for a mistake, oversight, or breaking a working agreement and identifying a solution, you must encourage this behaviour. This one of the best self-management habits an individual can have. Make this a personal goal of yours and thank us later.

Zoom Out

Consider any other structural factors that may contribute to the efficiency of your team. If your team is often relying on a product team for work to progress it may be worth pulling them into the discussion and creating a working agreement between teams.

Working agreements are an important tool for software teams to increase accountability, productivity, efficiency and many other secondary traits. Working agreements will ultimately act as the ‘lines on the road’ on your way to achieving your goals.

Looking to implement working agreements with your team? Explore working agreements in CodeGem.

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