The Journey to Creating a Team Charter

Every now and then every ScrumMaster or Agile Coach meets a team that doesn’t show any of the Scrum values in their day to day interactions. This can be frustrating to the agilist, but to the team it can be psychologically harmful and have a severe impact upon their performance. Taking a lead from professional coaching, I believe that the answer to this problem in the team exists within the team itself. I set to work creating a retrospective that would help this team create a charter that they own and buy into.

As I knew why I was running this particular retro and what I wanted the team to produce during it, creating a POWER start was relatively simple. If the team created a charter that requires a higher level of respect than they previously showed each other then they will feel better about their colleagues and deliver more value to the business also. I had a look around the web to see what other people had done when creating team charters, and was inspired by an article on sharing team values by Dhaval Panchal. I thought that I would be able to merge this with a class on the Scrum values that I’ve previously run with other teams.

I started the retro by asking the team to take three cards and write on at least one of them a statement about behaviours they don’t like being a victim of in the format of “I don’t like it when people / someone…” When everyone had created up to three of these, I retrieved the cards and gave them a shuffle. Whilst doing this I asked the team to pair up with someone they weren’t sat next to. I divided the cards up evenly between the pairs and asked them to think of a positive way to behave that that would would be a way to avoid the negative behaviour. In their pairs they came up with statements that began “I like it when people / someone…” and wrote it on the other side of each card, and then asked for them back again.

The Scrum Values

At this point I introduced the Scrum values to them. I mixed up the pairs and handed out cards with different values on and asked each pair to discuss a value and then present it to the group. Once the team was familiar with the values I handed out the cards once more and asked each pair to categorise the cards they received to one of the Scrum values.

I checked in with the team to see if everyone agreed with where the cards belonged, and that everyone thought these were reasonable behaviours that everyone could try to live by in the workplace. When they were happy, I congratulated them on having created a team charter. This was the first time I had mentioned to the team what I had hoped they would gain from the retro. Concealing this from the team gave them the space to think about each step independently, and without fear of offending any of their colleagues or having a confrontation about whether or not they needed to included any particular behaviour. Their surprise at the end gave me the satisfaction that the risk I had taken had paid off, as the meeting had been conducted with kindness and civility.

Making it Last

Upon the reveal, some of the team expressed concern that this would make no difference, that they had followed the advice given to them in the past, and yet their relationship problems had continued. I have written the charter up on the wall in the team area, and given the team permission to use this as a tool to encourage each other to abide by their agreement. Every Monday after stand up the team will take it in turns to read out the charter to each other to help them keep it fresh in their minds. This is the beginning of their journey towards becoming an highly effective agile team, and only time will tell if they arrive at the destination.

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