Team Norms Playbook

What are team norms?

Norms are the team’s values, working styles and expectations. It’s especially relevant to align on norms when starting with a new team. People don’t know each other professionally or personally. The team or project’s charter is a blank slate.

Who is responsible for team norms?

Product Managers usually lead our norming workshops or sessions.

What value do norms provide?

Norms can be simple and procedural. For example, agreeing that everyone’s camera should be on during video conferences. Or more complex, such as agreeing on a set of standards for the Definition of Done.

They can also expose areas where there’s likely to be conflict. Imagine a design review where the presenter values community and calm, and a reviewer values competition and individuality. The reviewer thinks they had a stimulating debate; the presenter feels the review was hostile.

Norming doesn’t require individuals to conform to something they’re not comfortable with. But it does show the team where they have common ground, and where they differ. They can then develop norms for how they collaborate. In the example above, the team might adopt a two-phased design process where the initial exploration is generative and individualistic, but the team agrees to protocols for giving and receiving feedback.

Ready to get started?


Agree a set of principles and working agreements for the team.

Time Required

1 hour and 30 minutes.


Large sheets of paper, sharpies (3 different colors), a quiet room.

Prep Work

Write the following pairs of questions on 3 large sheets of paper. Note: adapt the questions to your circumstance as needed. Some alternatives are listed below. Recommend not using more than 3 pairs in total.

Write on the top of page 1: What norms do we want? Why are we working together?

Write on the top of page 2: What concerns do we have? What is working?

Write on the top of page 3: What does success look like? What does failure look like?


  1. Split the team in to 3 groups, and assign each group to one sheet of paper. Give each group a different colored pen.
  2. Give the groups 5 minutes to write down at least 3 points under each question.
  3. Rotate the groups, and give 5 minutes for the 2nd piece of paper. If the group disagrees with anything the previous group wrote they can add a line to it or put an “x” next to the item.
  4. Rotate the groups, and give 5 minutes for the final piece of paper.
  5. Make sure everyone has a pen. Ask each person to vote 4 times (per sheet of paper) for the items they agree with strongest.
  6. Have someone count up the dots for each item, writing the number next to the dots.
  7. As a group, talk through the top 2 items under each question.
  8. Come to an agreement on each of the main questions. This can become the new “team charter” or compliment an existing charter.
  9. Post the sheets of paper (or photos of them) somewhere everyone can see or access them- eg on a wall or in Slack.

Notes for Remote Sessions

When working remotely, this activity can be run just as well using collaborative tools like Google Docs, Miro or FigJam. Prepare the document in advance and simply use ticks or emojis for voting.

Alternative Questions

  • Team vision and values: How do we know we’re succeeding?
  • Team Agreements and Conflict Resolution: How do we know we’re failing?
  • Definition of done: Definition of ready (to run the story)
  • What is our goal? or: Why do people pay us?
  • What decisions do we make?
  • What are your defining principles as a team?
  • What does it look like if you are successful?
  • How do you know if you are failing?
  • How do you know you are done and it has been delivered?
  • Who is on the Team? And who is in an external support role?
  • Everyone on the team is responsible for successful achieving the goal. As a team how do you take responsibility, as a group, for the ultimate success of the project?
  • What authority do you have? And is it sufficient to complete your goal?
  • How are you going to get feedback from the customer? Demo? And how will you do that early in the dev process?
  • How are you going to work together? What has worked well on previous team? Identify meeting types and cadence, communication channels, working hours, preferences, individual requests.
  • What your commitments? Who is required or optional at daily standup, retro, planning? When and how will you work together?
  • Review your external accountability and determine how are you going to meet them? Communicate status, architecture alignment, technical governance, project management, budget review, leadership review, customer alignment, change management, audit.