Thursday, April 30, 2015

Working Agreements

Working Agreements

In a recent post, making a distinction between agreement and alignment, I discussed helping two groups of teams develop a partnership. One valuable discovery was watching how working agreements developed.

Starting with an Intention

We started with an intention not a set of working agreements. The intention was created based on what the group was out to achieve.

The intention was, with names removed, "Team Blue requires Team Green in order to achieve it's desired outcomes. Team Blue will groom the backlog to a level that Team Green can say they are ready to be planned." This was done in the context of developing a partnership.

Discovery of working agreements and rules that support the intention

Working agreements were discovered by doing the work and a common intention.

We discovered how often we needed to meet and for how long. We discovered how best to track where we were and how to make that visible. No one had to be convinced to use the tools or follow the agreements, it would have been silliness not to.

We discovered what topics and discussions lead us away from our goal, and rules were setup regarding those topics.

Acts of Leadership will cause working agreements

"Teams develop norms whether they are paying attention to norms or not." Esther Derby - See more at.

It was acts of leadership that injected the possibility of a future of partnership and participation. From this created possible future came working agreements that supported that possible future. 

A common practice I observe is getting people together to create working agreements. This is done without creating a future, an intention, that resonates with people. The outcome of this is a set of agreements that we use to make excuses for not keeping them.

Leadership injects what is missing that creates space for people to win. In this example, leadership injects partnership and removes anything that is not partnership. 

Leadership removes what exists that will hinder people from winning, by helping them see what is in the way of them winning, in this case blame, disappointment, broken promises, lack of concern for others and more. Much of this was displaced by injecting partnership. 

A leader helps people see their normal way of being and acting that is taking them where they say they do not want to go. 

A leader develops people to have the compassion to develop others such that they see and deal with their inconsistent actions, as the leader sees and deals with their own inconsistent actions. From this real working agreements can develop and evolve.

Effective working agreements are not a team goal they are an outcome of being team.


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