Do you face challenges in team collaboration and communication?
This article explores this practice, explains why using it is beneficial, and concludes with my learnings as a facilitator to help you impact your team’s success.
Also, you’ll find a ready-to-use Mural board template and a step-by-step guide on how to co-create your team agreements collaboratively, visually, and remotely.
The Key to Unlocking Collaborative Success
Team Agreement Canvas provides a structured framework for teams to define their working agreements and build a shared understanding of how they will collaborate.
It covers essential elements of team agreements such as Purpose, Values, Norms, and Goal setting, fostering clarity and alignment among team members.
You’ll be able to choose the approach that better works for you in order to populate the canvas collaboratively with your team: follow the default order from boxes 1 to 11, or design your own path.
Why Team Agreement Canvas
In the previous article, The Starting Point to Build a Team, I highlighted the importance of making meaningful connections and generating engagement among team members when supporting a group of people in their team-making journey.
With these types of activities, we’ll help them structure the foundations from where they will build shared understanding around their way of working, roles, responsibilities, and expectations thus fostering a sense of ownership and belonging.
I love the equation C = R = R that condenses a friendly reminder “the quality of our Conversations will have an impact on our Relationship and this on the Results we get”.
By using Team Agreement Canvas, teams will start improving their Conversations, and Relationships and this will affect positively their future Results.
How to Use Team Agreement Canvas in a Retrospective Session
If you’re following this article series, there is no need to tell you that I strongly recommend designing our retrospectives following the 5 stages of “Agile Retrospectives“.
In this case, I decided to design this retrospective inspired by the 4-Cs of “Training from the Back of the Room!”: Connection, Concepts, Concrete Practice, and Conclusions.
The connection stage will help team members connect with each other and also revisit the things they already know, or think they know, about their current agreements.
This activity should be started a couple of days before the planned retrospective session because the facilitator will request the team to complete a Personal Collab Card in advance. If you’re not familiar with this practice, take a look at The Starting Point to Build a Team.
At the beginning of the retrospective session, as a check-in activity, the facilitator will invite everybody to display how they feel in an emotion-meter.
Right after the check-in, each team member will be asked to introduce another member using the information provided in the Personal Collab Cards. New facts about the team members will be surely discovered at this point!
The facilitator will continue explaining the importance of building some agreement around ways of working, expectations, collaborations, etc and how these will help them find a clearer alignment, better the communication within the team and enhance the continuous improvement.
Building a shared understanding of their purpose, core values, norms, and goals will contribute not only to reducing conflicts, and misunderstandings or -in other words- their individual and collective well-being.
First of all, the team will be invited to find a name for themselves and write down a purpose — a phrase that simplifies the main goal of working together.
Then, the facilitator will let the team choose between two approaches from the Team Agreement canvas: start working on the canvas from points 1 to 11 or prioritize the topics that they find more beneficial to cover.
Each section contains clear instructions and the facilitator will allot around 10 minutes to start every discussion.
The facilitator will invite people to write down some ideas and proposals on post its individually first to later discuss them with the team.
My recommendation at this point is to give them orange post-its to write individual ideas, then if it’s an idea or a proposal that the whole team agrees on, turn the post it green.
The facilitator should be aware that building team agreements can take more than one session, depending on the session’s duration.
In my experience, teams are able to reach several important agreements on 3 to 4 topics in a 1-hour session.
At the end of every discussion, the facilitator should wrap up and at this point make sure that all is written down and the team has clarity on what was agreed upon.
Before the end of the session, it would be nice to have participants share their takeaways. Take into account that every voice matters, and making a space to share available will contribute to broadening their perspective and reinforce their sense of belonging.
The facilitator will propose everyone to write down their takeaways in notes — after being shared aloud — and place them on the satisfaction meter.
Also, at this point, the team will be able to decide if they continue building the team agreement building in a future session.
Are you ready to facilitate this retrospective?
Get the ready-to-go MURAL template to begin co-creating your team agreement collaboratively, visually, and remotely!
My learnings as a facilitator
Since this is an activity that involves a lot of talking, it would be essential to consider that individuals vary in their level of verbal communication. Some are naturally more vocal, some more introvert.
As such, it is crucial to ensure that everybody is afforded equal opportunities to articulate their thoughts and ideas.
The facilitator might need to interrupt some discussions to get everyone on track several times so interrupting politely will be a must skill.
Timekeeping will be another needed skill to help the team focus on building agreements that really contribute to improving their communication and collaboration toward their team purpose.
Once I tried this activity with a group of people who didn’t see it beneficial to become a team because they didn’t have a common purpose. They were okay just coordinating a few things.
So, I used the team agreement canvas but I let them decide the topics they needed to coordinate, and then we began the discussions.
I would like to invite you to give the Team Agreement Canvas a try during your next Retrospective Session. Surely it will be a valuable tool for facilitating effective teamwork.
I strongly recommend implementing it today so that you can make ongoing improvements as you go along.
It’s important to keep in mind that every team is unique, which keeps us facilitators on our toes!
I would greatly appreciate hearing about your experiences and any feedback you have in order to enhance this practice.
Best of luck with your digital facilitations!