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Embracing Agile project management methodologies and adopting Agile transformation is an ideal way for companies to transform their mindset and culture to think and act more nimbly to adapt to the ever-changing market demands.
As a Scrum Master, implementing specific Agile best practices like social contracts is one way to build trust with your team, improve company culture, boost employee engagement, and create an effective framework for encouraging teamwork. It’s no secret that team cohesion and trust are vital components of the Scrum process, but building trust and creating a positive company culture can be difficult when dealing with different personalities within your team.
With the help of social contracts, any Scrum Master can turn a group of employees into a successful team while establishing a more healthy workplace culture and enabling business success. By embracing these ideas and methodologies, you’ll create a unified team environment where team members feel comfortable and empowered to share their ideas and concerns, which is a critical component of successful project management and delivery.
What Is a Social Contract?
According to Agile Coach Ethann C., a social contract is a set of agreements that a team makes to describe how the team members will behave and work together. Social contracts are sometimes called working/team agreements.
Social interaction between employees during meetings is one aspect that defines workplace culture. Factors such as whether or not you turn on your camera during virtual meetings and having an environment where your team feels comfortable presenting their opinion and knowing that it will be received without judgment all define the work culture of a team. An efficient way to build a positive work culture and a great work environment is to address issues with team members and create team agreements promptly.
Who Is Responsible for Creating a Social Contract?
The social contract is a fundamental part of the Scrum framework and in building a positive company workplace culture. It is formed by the team and outlines what the team members agree to do to ensure they can work together effectively. The Scrum Master is the team leader responsible for social cohesion within the team and ensuring that everyone participates and agrees to the contract.
Why Do We Need Social Contracts?
One of the most critical aspects of work culture is the way that people interact with each other. In a team setting, this can be particularly challenging because there are many different personalities involved, especially when dealing with a remote team.
For example, one person might be very outgoing and talkative, while another is introverted and prefers to listen. These differences can make it difficult for someone typically outspoken to understand why someone else might not speak up in a meeting. Team development is next to impossible without addressing these issues.
Collective thinking is essential to help facilitate communication, and it’s a good practice to establish clear social contracts with the team. This can include setting aside time for everyone to give an elevator pitch during daily standup meetings so everyone has an opportunity to speak. The Scrum Master needs to mediate conversations that are too long or contain too much unproductive dialogue. This can be accomplished by gently interrupting conversations that are too long or by reminding team members that they should focus on one point at a time and then move on when they're finished talking.
How Are Social Contracts Formed?
Social contracts are created during team formation or at the start of a project. Team members discuss their expectations for each other and then agree to follow those expectations. Below are five steps a team leader can take to create a social contract and establish a positive work culture:
- Gather the team members and explain the need for the contract. This can be done in any established Scrum meetings or individually.
- Create individual accountability, asking team members to come up with positive behaviors that align with the core values of the entire team and organization.
- Brainstorm a list of agreements and discuss each in detail. This will help you gain a better sense of whether or not your teammates are truly accepting and understanding of the agreements.
- Reflect on the proposed agreements, accept feedback, and address any new concerns before the meeting ends.
- Implement the agreement by placing the contract on a bulletin board near your workspace for easy reference.
Social Contracts Examples
Social contracts can come in many forms and can be adjusted to meet the needs of your team. According to Marty Drill of Medium Publishing, some examples of social contracts include:
- Keep the JIRA board updated at all times
- Quality is everybody’s responsibility
- Everyone has an equal voice and valuable contribution
Other examples of social contracts that can be made to improve social cohesion include:
- Actively participate in all ceremonies
- Raise a problem as soon as you see it
- Use a team collaboration tool such as Microsoft Teams or Slack as the primary method of team communication
- Be on time for team stand-ups and meetings
Social contracts provide each member with a sense of responsibility and ownership, creating a positive workplace and team culture. This promotes effective teamwork, job satisfaction, positive working environments, and productivity increases. Now it’s your turn. Time to roll up your sleeves and build a social contract for your team!
How Nisum Can Help
Nisum can provide your organization with a competitive edge through lean and Agile coaching. We have 20+ years of experience building change management systems that address team efficiency and productivity challenges. Let our certified Agile experts help you orchestrate a holistic Agile transformation centered around cultural change that drives measurable results. Contact us today to learn more about our business agility services and how your business can benefit.