Do groups need agreements?

Every once in a while, when I propose that groups craft explicit agreements about working together, I get push back expressed as the argument that groups should just be expected to work well together.

Some do and it's because they have naturally built a fairly healthy environment of mutual respect and trust based on agreed ways of behaving together. These agreements might not be obvious but they are at work and valued. They are agreements about how:

  • Communication happens
  • Feedback is shared
  • Problems are managed
  • Decisions are made
  • Work is distributed
  • Resources are shared
  • Exceptions are made
  • Continuous learning occurs
  • Successes are celebrated

To the trained eye and ear, there are a handful of clear indicators when groups lack vital agreements.

  • Unequal workloads
  • Feeling left out of decisions
  • Tensions around trust and authenticity
  • Communication disconnects and overloads
  • Unresolved schedule and/or space conflicts
  • Delivering unhelpful, divisive or indirect feedback
  • Blaming the boss for group behavior

The methodology I have developed to accelerate agreements is simple and brief. We identify areas where there are prime opportunities for agreements, we craft some to experiment with and apply successes. And it works.