Team Norms vs Working Agreements: Understanding the Difference

In any team or group setting, establishing clear guidelines and expectations is crucial for smooth collaboration and productivity. Two common terms that often come up in this context are team norms and working agreements. While they may seem similar, there are distinct differences between the two.

Team norms refer to the unwritten rules and behavioral expectations that develop within a team over time. These norms are typically based on shared values, beliefs, and experiences. Examples of team norms include respecting everyone’s opinions, arriving on time for meetings, and actively listening to each other. They help create a positive team culture and promote cooperation.

Working agreements, on the other hand, are explicit agreements made by the team members to define how they will work together. These agreements are usually documented and serve as a reference point for team behavior. Working agreements can encompass various aspects such as communication protocols, decision-making processes, and handling conflicts. They provide a framework for effective teamwork.

While team norms are more informal and develop organically, working agreements are intentional and require active participation from all team members. Team norms tend to be implicit and may not be explicitly discussed, whereas working agreements are typically discussed and agreed upon collectively.

Another key distinction is that team norms are often based on common values and principles, whereas working agreements are tailored to the specific needs and goals of the team. Team norms are more about the overall team culture, while working agreements focus on the practical aspects of collaboration and task completion.

It is important to note that both team norms and working agreements play significant roles in team dynamics and can contribute to a positive and productive work environment. By having clear expectations and guidelines, teams can enhance their communication, cooperation, and overall effectiveness.

Whether you are part of a project team, a sports team, or any other type of group, understanding the difference between team norms and working agreements can help you navigate the dynamics and contribute to a successful outcome.