Agile/Scrum blog

The team manifesto, the foundation every team needs

Barry Overeem Door: Barry Overeem,  27-06-2014
Onderwerp: Agile Teams  

Teamwork nowadays is more important than ever. The amount of innovations and changes increase drastically. The only companies that survive are those who can adapt quick enough. Having a set of small, self-organizing and multidisciplinary teams with mutual understanding about teamwork and quality, can make the difference between winning or losing as a company.

"If you could get all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time." - Patrick Lencioni, author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

Ideally teams get the chance to select their own members, organize a kickoff and define a strategy to reach the given goal. Most of the time teams are created top-down and there's no time available for a decent kickoff. Teams just start with the realization of the project and everything seems to be going smoothly. But when the first serious impediments arise the foundation of the team will be tested. Teams with a solid foundation will also struggle in the beginning but survive and become stronger than before. Teams without this foundation might also survive after a harsh period, but chances are they fall apart and the project is killed and the team dissolved.

But what is this solid foundation you want as a team? Patrick Lencioni describes it thus:

"Members of truly cohesive teams trusts one other, engage in unfiltered conflict around ideas, commit to decisions and plans of actions, hold one another accountable for delivering against those plans and focus on the achievement of collective results."

If an organization is able to create teams according to this definition, you truly have got a 'golden team'.

As mentioned above the first step in becoming such a team is establishing a solid foundation. This foundation consists of a shared vision about teamwork and the required quality standards.

For this purpose, creating a team manifesto is the ideal instrument. It is an agreed way of working among the team members that ensures mutual understanding. Years ago I got inspired by this blog post, since then I've changed it slightly to fit new insights. With every team I start, creating the team manifest is the first thing I do, success guaranteed!

The steps are:

  1. Set a time box of one hour. Pick a flip over, some sticky notes and markers
  2. Ask the team the question 'What does team mean to you?'
  3. Let them answer this question in silence and write it down on a sticky note. One answer per sticky note.
  4. Gather all notes and ask the team members to present it to each other
  5. Cluster the ideas and identify and prioritize the themes by voting
  6. Write down 'Team Manifesto' on a A3 poster and the 5 most important themes on the left side
  7. Give the team some time to brainstorm about the other extreme of the earlier defined themes. For example: the extreme of 'fun' might be 'boring'.
  8. Write down all the extremes on the right side of the poster with in the center the word 'above'.
  9. The last important step is to invite everyone to affirm their commitment to the team manifesto by writing down their signature below the poster.
  10. Make sure the team manifesto is well visible in the team area.

 

The same exercise can be done by posing the team the question 'what does quality mean to you?’ This creates awareness about the required quality and stimulates craftsmanship.

 What are the advantages of creating a team manifesto?

  1. Because the team members created it them selves, it is truly shared and owned by the team.
  2. They are more conscious of what it means to be a team, act like it and encourage others to behave according to the made agreements.
  3. It gives the team the foundation to cope with impediments and setback.
  4. It is great input for the retrospective. Periodically assessing the team against the manifesto gives great input for the retrospective.
  5. Writing down the extremes of every theme helps in recognizing undesirable behavior.


Creating the golden team is complex and has lots of uncertainties and dependencies. The team manifesto ensures mutual understanding about what it means to be a team. This offers the necessary foundation to cope with impediments and grow even stronger as a team.


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