- Whiteboard and sticky notes, (optional: additional poster to document final team norms)
- Decide, if you want the result of the workshop to be just a list, or an official document that the team commits to.
- If you want the document to be official: Make sure that the whole team is present.
Check-In (5 minutes)
- Welcome the team and use a check-in question to help everyone become present. (Proposal: Like which movie character do you feel today?)
- Introduce the workshop’s goal and overview.
Goal: Discover our team’s implicit norms & document them.
Overview: After explaining the concept of “norms”, we’ll brainstorm the norms of our teams and try to find a set of norms, that we’re all willing to commit to.
Explain norms: While some norms are also “rules” (legislation or company guidelines), most norms are implicit expectations based on how the team works together. Group norms are not only about “What we should not do”, but also about “what we should do” or even “strive for”. It’s OK for group norms to include ideals as well.
Step 1 (10 minutes): Individual brainstorming
- Let everyone brainstorm norms based on (a) positive behaviors that the team values as well as (b) behavior that is not accepted or “punished” within the team.
- Ensure that everyone is brainstorming on their own to decrease the possibility of groupthink.
- Set a limit of 10 norms per person (it can also be less).
Step 2 (15-30 minutes): Presentation
- Now, every team member shares their ideas and places the stickies on the whiteboard.
- Each presenter can place the stickies near existing ones if ideas are similar.
Note: If your team is bigger than eight people, you could think about forming pairs of two and letting them discuss their ideas for max. 5 minutes before one of the two shares their summary with the whole group.
Step 3 (10 minutes): Identify themes
- Once all stickies are places on the whiteboard, ask for clarification needs or questions.
- Ask the team to name the (up to) 5 most important overarching themes arising from the collected ideas. Draw a circle around those groups/ themes.
- Now it’s time to agree on a specific title for each theme. Don’t just make it a word like “Punctuality” but a real norm like: “We expect everyone to join meetings on time or give an upfront notice.”
- Repeat this process for each of the most important themes.
Step 4 (10 minutes): Create commitment
- This step is undervalued, but very important: Ask each member of the group, if they agree to committing to these norms and actively speak up if they are violated.
- Take objections seriously and ask the group to refine a norm until all objections are cleared.
- Once each norm is finally agreed upon, write it on a separate area on the whiteboard or even a poster.
- Optionally, if you use the poster for the team norms: Add the sub-heading “I commit to these norms and will speak up if I suspect or observe their violation.” and ask everyone to sign the poster.
This will help raise team member commitment to abide by the now defined norms. “This wasn’t just for fun. This is our bible now.”
Ending & Checkout (5 minutes)
Note for the follow-up:
- To have impact in your daily work, the norms should be visible: Decide as a team where the norms should be shared in the office or the digital workspace.
- As a check-out question, ask everyone which of the final norms surprised them the most.
The team norms are not written in stone. They are written on paper. Even metaphorically. They are always open to discussion and re-assessment. Team members should be able to refer to them when conflicts arise. Also use your team’s retrospectives to continuously reflect their implementation and even identify possible changes.