Working Agreements Mingle

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Facilitating a workshop or class? Need to come up with working agreements? Are people still shy and quiet and is the tempo still low? Here’s an easy method to get a medium sized group, about 20 people, to come up with and agree to a set of working agreements, while energizing the room and getting people talking to each other.

Material:

  • Post it notes and pens (1 per participant)
  • Flip chart or white board -> to place the working agreement notes.

Time:

~20 minutes for 20 participants

Method:

Hand out post it notes and pens to the participants.

Give them a couple of minutes to think of the most important working agreement for them. The limit is just ONE per person. 

Ask them to write it on their post-it.

Now the fun starts! The participants are going to use a mingle to get a list of working agreements. Read these instructions out loud:

Please stand up. You will have about 10 minutes to get an ok from each of the other participants for your working agreement. You will do that by letting the other person know what your agreement point is, and why it’s important to you. You will keep track of the OK’s by getting the back of your post-it initialed by each participant who oks it. You should have X initials by the end of the 10 minutes. We’re going to do this by mingling in pairs or threes when we say start. Remember the goal is to explain your working agreement and why it’s important to you and get an ok from the other person. START!

Once everybody’s done, ask them to walk over to the flip chart or white board, and have them come up one at a time to read their agreement out loud and put it on the board. Everybody’s already heard these all before, so this part moves quickly. Let the participants know that they should group similar notes together. (there will be overlaps!)

Ask the group: What working agreements are we missing? There might be one or two suggestions, ask the group if it’s ok to add them too, and if it is, add them to the board. Now ask: Are you prepared to abide by these working agreements during this facilitation/class? Hands up if you are. 

Congratulations you’ve now got an energized group with working agreements set for the day!

Note:  I use this facilitation for classes or workshops where I would have just spent a few minutes on setting up the working agreements to begin with, this is a great alternative to pop-ups or just getting an ok to a pre-written list. I do not use this method when the group needs to have a deeper talk about working agreements, or where there is already a lack of psychological safety. I also do not use this for team working agreements/rules.

2 Comments

  • 1
    Derek Mahlitz
    2019-10-24 - 00:17 | Permalink

    Hi Yassal, I was curious about why you wouldn’t use for a team working agreement?

    • 2
      2019-10-24 - 07:44 | Permalink

      Hi Derek,
      For team agreements, I like to make sure that we have more meaningful conversations around working agreements. For a workshop it’s ok if someone says that we should be active listeners, or treat each other with respect and leave it at that after explaining to others why it’s important. For a team’s long term working agreement I would want to make sure that we all understand and are on board with what it means that we treat each other with respect, or what we mean by stable builds or zero bugs, and that takes more time and discussion. Here’s an example of how you can run a working agreements session with a team: https://blog.crisp.se/2018/12/05/jimmyjanlen/bootstrapping-a-working-agreement-for-the-agile-team

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