The Social Contract is a simple, yet highly effective manner to enable team autonomy and self accountability for engagements. The Social Contract is created by and for the team. It looks to codify the behaviors and expectations of the team. It also provides a mechanism for the team to radiate and share its desired behaviours with management and other stakeholders.
To effectively use this practice you should look to create the following outcomes:
Public display of the social contract
Nobody is above the contract
The team agreed holds each other accountable to the contract. Having every team member physically sign the contract can provide a good starting point for this.
Revisit the social contract often and update it as necessary
Quick means to clearly determine team dynamics and expectations
Promote autonomy and self governing of team behavior
The contract keeps the team consciously aware of how they work together
Establish empathy and context for future conversations between team members
Stick the large poster paper on the wall and label it "Social Contract."
Explain to the team that we're going to:
Define the kind of culture we want our team to have
Set some general guidelines
Hold one another accountable to these guidelines
Ask open-ended questions about the team's desired way of working. If the team agrees to an answer, write the decision on a sticky note and put the note on the poster paper. If there's not consensus, throw the sticky note away or put it in the parking lot for later discussion.
At the end, ask the team to sign the contract, and keep it in a visible place. Note that this is a living document so the team can revisit it later, change it, and initial it to indicate that everyone has agreed to the change.
As the team moves forward, encourage them to refer back to the contract when there are disagreements.
Try to guide the team to a contract that encourages positivity, autonomy, and respect.
What sort of team culture do you want to build?
Open, positive, blame-free, constructive
No magic, no wizardry, no ninjas - build shared understanding
What core hours do you want to work? 10am - 3pm?
The idea is not to encourage a clock-in/clock-out mindset. It's about giving people the freedom to work the hours that make sense for them while ensuring that the team can still meet together.
What are your thoughts on pair programming? Mob programming? Mob to learn; pair to build? Focus, then share what you learned?
Respect individual working styles
How should we handle devices in meetings? Laptops closed and phones down? Step out if you need to work on something else?
How do you want to track tasks? Jira? Paper stickies? This helps us avoid missing important stuff or duplicating work.
Embrace creative chaos
Avoid building a social contract that encourages antagonistic, command-and-control behavior. Here's an example of a really bad social contract:
Core hours are 9am-7pm. The more time you spend at a desk, the more you'll accomplish.
Be more productive by juggling several projects at once.
Ensure accountability by finding someone to blame when things break.
Deploying to production is scary because it's an opportunity to get blamed for something (see above). Code should be deployed as infrequently as possible.
When you learn something, be sure to keep it to yourself so that everyone can see what a ninja rockstar wizard unicorn you are.
Consider to have a “pre-canned” social contract that is good for remote meetings, then allow people to add/change based on their thoughts.
Everyone signs with a Sticky-note with his/her name.
Add remote working elements to the social contract (mute on entry, video on etc).
Establish global communication norms and individual teams exceptions: response time, writing style, and tone, etc.
- One conversation at a time
- Assume positive intent
- Do not delete or move others contribution
- Stay focused on our goal working iteratively
- Respect breaks
- Avoid other distractions like mail, and chat
- A contract can be updated based on needs...
- Agree on the above adding a sticky w/name & location
Want to run this practice remotely? See the mural template below to jumpstart your session! 💻🙏
Check out these great links which can help you dive a little deeper into running the Social Contract practice with your team, customers or stakeholders.