Creating Meaningful Team Norms
Team Norms are typically created when a team first starts out together but can be valuable any time - it's never too late to create them. Team Norms can be powerful and meaningful for the team, if care is taken in creating them. The best Team Norms are more than standup time, core hours and whether or not people can eat in the room. Yes, those may be on the list, too, but the Team Norms that are a beacon the team can use in a storm are ones that express:
- Rules for Living Together
Values. These are the things we value as a team. Some things I've seen teams come up with are:
- Being bold isn't bad
- Share the work = share the credit
- Notice when someone needs help and offer
- Open communication, even when not comfortable
- Success of the team over success of the individual
- Keep it simple
- Don't struggle for more than 15 minutes before asking for help
- Be truly open so we can get the most creative solutions
It's difficult to get a team to express these. They are intimate, sometimes they hit the core of who we are as individuals, they're not light conversation. One method I use to prime the pump is to ask the team to throw out characteristics of the best team they've been on and the worst team. (Hat tip to Mike Vizdos) We make two lists on a board. If you have introverts, you may want them to come up with the words on stickies and have them de-brief each other after the stickies are up. Then, you can lead them through a conversation about which of the good characteristics they want to adopt and which of the bad characteristics they want to avoid.
Teams with value statements in their norms (hanging in the room where they see them every day) have a better chance of doing well together. These are the things they can true back to when the going gets tough.
Rules for Living Together. Here is where the "no stinky food" rule goes. These are typically easier for teams to come up with as they contemplate sharing a space together or remember what it was like to share space with their last team.
Logistics. These are important, too, but they are the easiest to come up with. Core hours, sprint length, standup time. These are some typical logistical norms.
Team Norms can be useful to the team if they are meaningful, value-based. They have a shelf-life, too, so remember to revisit them every so often, and maybe revise them, especially when a new team member joins the team.