I believe that company and team culture are vital aspects of any Agile team. Culture plays out in every day interactions from how we treat each other to how we conduct meetings. I have found it useful to help my teams come up with a Code of Conduct and Team Constitution to document the culture of the team.

Your culture reflects the behaviors that are rewarded or punished within your organization. A clear Code of Conduct and an accepted Constitution can help your team define their culture and make it easier for new people to integrate into the team.

Team Code of Conduct

This is an agreement for how the team will interact with each other. It is similar to a Bill of Rights that lists the things that every team member has a right to enjoy. Here are some examples from teams I’ve worked with in the past:

  • When we meet as a group, each individual will give total attention, without distraction, to the person speaking.
  • No discussion will be interrupted except by the least intrusive means possible.
  • All ideas will be treated with respect.
  • Rejection of an idea will not be seen as rejection of the source.
  • The best idea will be supported regardless of the source.
  • Majority support for an idea will be sufficient for its ratification regardless of any individual distaste for the idea.
  • No actions will be taken to deliberately cause harm.
  • Seeking to understand will be preferred to seeking to be understood.

Team Constitution

While the Code of Conduct governs how we treat each other, the Constitution describes how we get things done. How does the team want to handle routine activities like asking for help, making decisions, etc.? This will vary from team to team, but here are some of the questions that Team Constitutions should answer:

  • How do I decline to take part in something (lunch and learn, happy hour, etc.)?
  • How do we start team activities (meetings, Retrospectives, Reviews, etc.)?
  • How do we ask for help from each other?
  • What do we do if someone does something in violation of the Team Code of Conduct or Team Constitution?
  • How do I check someone’s intention if I think they are doing something that I believe will not result in a positive outcome?
  • How do we make decisions as a team? Do we take votes? How are votes counted? What constitutes a majority? Who has veto power?
  • How do we meet the needs of those who lose votes and get them to support the decision of the team?

Don’t expect to complete these documents on your first try. It will take several revisions to find the version that works for your team. Also, it’s vital that the team ratify both documents. If they feel that these are rules being imposed on them, then they will probably resist adopting them.