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Natalia Rossingol

What is a Team Agreement + the 9 Steps to Create One

Don't skimp on setting standards and expectations. A solid team agreement can help people stick together even when the going gets tough.

Teams are dynamic, and their behavior is sometimes unpredictable. Under the influence of various stressors, uncertainty, or disruption, a team can easily lose its cohesion and transform into a chaotic group of individuals who don't know how to work together.

However, this can be avoided if you use team agreements.

A team agreement is like the gravity that pulls people together. It enables positive performance and helps create a psychologically safe work environment where talents can flourish.

So let’s explore what team agreements are, how they contribute to team alignment, and how to create one that would work for you. 

What is a team agreement?

A team agreement (also known as a "team working agreement" ) is a document that specifies all aspects of team collaboration, outlining expectations and providing guidance on how to communicate and interact in a team.

It functions as a reference where team members can find answers about various work processes, like meetings or decision-making. At the same time, it functions as a social contract that contains all the norms of team behavior.

The purpose of a team agreement is to ensure smooth teamwork, getting everyone on the same page and creating a productive work environment. Clear guidance eliminates possibilities of misunderstanding and confusion, as people get access to all the necessary information, which fosters team cohesion.

This way, team agreements help create a truly healthy team.

A team agreement is similar to a team charter, but there is a slight difference: while a team charter specifies the team's structure, strategy, resources, assessment, and other elements of formal teamwork, a team agreement is more focused on creating alignment and agreeing on the norms of behavior.

Typically, all team members participate in building a team agreement, to both collect valuable input and reach a total buy-in.

While it might feel awkward to write down all the details, including those that seem so obvious, setting standards is really important. Without them, people start making assumptions – and that often causes problems and ruins trust. Explicit rules prevent unnecessary drama.

This is also especially useful for new team members who are not yet fully integrated into the work process.

Who needs a team agreement?

Any team would benefit from creating team agreements – they unify the efforts and lead a group to success, positively affecting team performance.

However, team agreements are particularly useful for hybrid or remote teams since they don’t necessarily interact with each other so much. By establishing clear interaction consensus in writing, you sow the seeds of a positive team culture, even if that culture exists only in virtual spaces.

For creating a healthy team environment, remote work can be a challenge for the following reasons:

  1. Cultural differences: Remote teams consist of people who belong to various cultures and have different professional backgrounds and experiences.
  2. Lack of non-verbal communication: Without face-to-face communication, it’s easy to misinterpret another person’s words. According to experts, 70 to 90 percent of all communication is non-verbal: we get most of the information by reading face expressions and body language. In a virtual work environment, this part is mostly missed out on.   
  3. Asynchronous work schedules: Quite often, remote teams are asynchronous, which means their members work from different time zones and are not available for each other at all times. This might cause stress since people do not always understand how to make decisions without immediate answers.
  4. Lack of social interactions: When people do not work in the same physical office, they do not have an opportunity to build a unique culture. For some individuals, the lack of social interaction at work can be the reason for anxiety and the feeling of alienation.

A team agreement can help solve all these issues: you can determine the acceptable communication style, implement certain communication protocols, specify the response times, and outline a whole set of cultural values you expect your group to demonstrate.

In addition to that, we should mention that team agreements may be particularly beneficial for scrum and self-organizing teams:

  • For scrum teams, a clear set of guidelines will help direct the collective efforts to deliver value – in particular, a scrum team agreement might include the 3 Scrum pillars (transparency, inspection, and adaptation) that encourage one to observe and learn from your observations, and Scrum values – Courage, Commitment, Focus, Openness, and Respect.
  • For self-organizing teams, a team agreement will function as a replacement for an official leader – all the rules will be contained in a document for reference, so the team will remain cohesive even without a person who physically controls its work.

Benefits of establishing a team agreement

Among multiple benefits of a team agreement, we can mention the following:

  • It provides clarity of purpose. A clearly stated goal and steps to its achievement give team members a sense of focus, keeping them motivated.
  • It creates team alignment. A team agreement is like a shared code of behavior that transforms a group into a team.
  • It increases accountability. When all processes and goals are documented, it’s hard to avoid accountability.
  • It helps mitigate conflicts. In a team, conflicts are inevitable – but with a clear set of conflict resolution rules, you know exactly what to do when a conflict arises. No need to panic.
  • It strengthens relationships in a team. The rules built on the principles of empathy and respect boost morale within a team and encourage healthy relationships.

Some examples of team agreements

1. GitLab Handbook

GitLab is an AI-powered DevSecOps Platform, and it's well renowned for its open, progressive work culture. Indeed, GitLab is so open that it published its employee handbook online for anyone to see. The 2,000 page team handbook contains very detailed information about the following:

  • Company (history, strategy, values, mission, vision, culture, communication, etc.)
  • People group (leadership, onboarding and offboarding, jobs FAQs, inclusion & diversity, etc;)
  • Engineering (customer support department, development department, infrastructure department, etc;)
  • Security (threat management, security operations, etc;)
  • Marketing (brand and product marketing, corporate communications, marketing strategy, etc.)
  • Sales (sales strategy, field operations, etc;)
  • Finance (tax, payroll etc;)
  • Product (product processes, UX department;)
  • Legal and Corporate Affairs (employment, privacy, risk management, etc.)

2. Tremendous

Tremendous, a payment platform, also has an employee handbook that contains core information and is available online. As the company points out, this information should be helpful for new hires and potential candidates:

  • Company info: mission, company history, values, team roster;
  • HR: employee benefits, holidays, vacations, expense policy;
  • How they work: minimal meeting culture, remote work, product development process;
  • Photobook.


Troppe, a company that offers a service allowing businesses to create rewards and help gather feedback, developed a culture guide where they outlined the rules of working remotely:

  • Golden rules: “make team meetings a priority,” “show personal interest,” “be present,” “recognize your teammates.”
  • General availability: business hours to be available, daily check-in and check-out, communication of absence.
  • How to use tools (Slack, Google-Meet, Loom, and Notion.)

How to create a team agreement (9 steps)

So what is the sequence of creating team agreements?

1. Initiate the discussion

The very first step is to talk to your team, explaining the importance and benefits of a team agreement as a social contract. Team members should know that it’s not just a useless formality they would need to add to their to-do list – it’s a practical instrument that would improve and facilitate their everyday work.   

2. Define objectives and goals

Team agreements are not created for fun – their purpose is to help a team reach certain results, outlined in objectives and goals. By clearly identifying things a company tries to achieve, you both set a direction for the team and provide team members with a sense of shared purpose that would keep them inspired.

To be truly useful, your objectives and goals must meet some criteria:

  • They should be reachable otherwise your team will waste their efforts on some utopian ideal.
  • They should be measurable so you can track progress and take action when something goes wrong.
  • They should be time-bound, to give people a sense of urgency and prevent procrastination.      

It’s important to remember that goals and objectives should be built around your values and reflect the long-term vision.

3. Get input from the whole team

Like we’ve already mentioned, working agreements are made collaboratively, with each team member participating in the process. Ensure that team members understand their input is valuable and can make a difference. Let team members brainstorm ideas and openly discuss them.

Some team members might be unwilling to share their thoughts (for example, because they’re naturally introverted or simply not used to making work decisions) but you should encourage them to speak up.

For an open and productive discussion, a team leader must take on a role of a facilitator, providing a safe environment to talk in and directing the discussion. The task of a facilitator is to make sure all the things on the agenda get discussed, all viewpoints are heard, and all the solutions and answers are found.

At the same time, a facilitator leads a conversation – by asking questions, not letting people interrupt each other and addressing those who prefer staying silent.  

4. Identify key areas to address

Team agreements can include a wide range of topics. You could either cover all of them (like they did in the GitLab Handbook,) or focus on something that specifically needs improvement in your particular situation, for example:

  • Communication norms
  • Meeting protocols
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Conflict resolution
  • Company’s values
  • Remote work policies etc. 

Setting new norms, you could also include the use of some instruments that would help achieve your goals, stated in the agreement. For example, by using Runn, you could plan your resources more effectively, and this can facilitate communication, remote teamwork, and even reduce conflicts.

5. Draft the agreement

When the discussion is over, make a draft of a team agreement, covering guidelines for each of the points discussed. Think about user-friendliness: use concise language and an accessible, easy-to-follow structure. A team agreement is a practical thing, and if it's too long and complicated, it will not be used for frequent reference as it’s supposed to.   

6. Review and revise

A completed team agreement draft should be reviewed to make sure it’s clear and covers all important areas. All team members should participate, just like they participate in the team agreement’s development.

 If the team decides that the initial copy is not perfect, you can always make changes to the agreement, adding, removing, or editing some points.

7. Finalize and implement the agreement

After the agreement has been reviewed and all team members are satisfied with the result, you can finalize it. Each person must approve the document – preferably, in written form, by signing it.

Once the team agreement is ready, it can be immediately put into practice.

8. Monitor, evaluate, and tweak

Team agreements are not set in stone. As a team evolves (and it inevitably does,) a team agreement should evolve as well, reflecting the changes.

For this reason, team agreements should be periodically revisited, to make sure they’re still effective or relevant. By observing how the rules and guidelines are followed and evaluating the situation, you can conclude if you need adjustments or not.

And since teamwork is a dynamic process, you will most probably have to make adjustments. Any changes in team structure, like adding or removing departments, changes in project scope, or moving to a hybrid work environment mean that the agreement must be revisited, otherwise, it will lose its value.

You could revise the document either regularly (for example, once in 3 or 6 months) or every time a change, even a slight one, happens to make sure you don’t miss anything. You could combine two of these methods, too.   

9. Reaffirm the agreement (periodically)

People are normally eager and excited about something new – however, once the feeling of novelty is gone, they tend to get back to the old, well-known patterns. That’s why it makes sense to reaffirm the agreement from time to time, to remind team members that it’s still relevant and needs to be used.

Underline the fact that you expect people to stick to the rules and refer to the document when they’re in doubt.


Team agreements can be a wonderful tool for creating alignment and encouraging collaboration. By setting standards and identifying the rules of conduct, you ensure an organized approach to everyday work and a smooth path to reaching your goals.

After all, clear expectations and shared values are the glue that holds a team together and makes the work environment healthier, happier, and more stress free.

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