Definition: What does working agreements mean?

Working agreements capture the shared understanding of a team in terms of how the individuals and the team as a whole want to work with each other and with their stakeholders.

It is a Scrum Master’s responsibility to ensure a team has co-created working agreements. It is also the Scrum Master’s responsibility that a team revisits and improves their working agreements over time.

Working agreements are an essential ingredient in any team’s journey towards more and more self-organization.

Synonyms: What other terms are used instead of working agreements?

Depending on the framework that teams use or their individual preferences, some refer to working agreements as “standards”, “rules of engagement”, “ground rules”, “team rules”, “team agreements”, “team contract”, or “collaboration guidelines”.

The “Definition of Done” or “Definition of Ready” are not synonymous with “Working Agreements”. They are a special type of working agreement. The “Definition of Done” captures a team’s shared understanding of what a “done” item looks like. The “Definition of Ready” captures a team’s shared understanding of what a “ready” item looks like.

Objective: Why are working agreements necessary?

Every team that wants to deliver results and achieve success needs to be aligned. Two major areas of alignment need to be considered. The first one is about ‘where do we want to go’. This is where the product vision comes into play. The second is about ‘how do we want to get there’ – not so much in terms of the detailed steps e.g. features we want to build, but rather in terms of our general approach or mode of collaboration.

For Scrum Teams, it is important to decide and agree on a sprint length, on the day and time of every event, on how we create requirements, the different roles and responsibilities, and many more things. The Agile Academy Working Agreement Canvas helps Scrum Masters and their teams to systematically create their working agreements.

Approach: How are working agreements used?

On the journey to their first sprint, a Scrum Master helps a team to create working agreements. A detailed step-by-step approach can be found here. Ultimately, it is important that we truly have a shared understanding of agreements. This means that a Scrum Master, Product Owner, or any other leader can not and should not force their perspective on how to work on the Development Team. Great Scrum Masters facilitate in a workshop style setting the co-creation of working agreements within a team. They also make sure that the team not only considers themselves, but also their key stakeholders.