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Team Norms

Norms are the rules that the team agrees to follow as it conducts its work. Norms may be written or may evolve as unwritten understandings over time. Most newly organizing teams find it effective to start out with an initial set of norms with the understanding that these will need to be reviewed and modified frequently. Some teams decide to review norms at the beginning or end of each meeting. The establishment and adherence to team norms helps build team discipline, trust between team members, and supports a safe environment.

While team norms may touch on any aspect of team behavior the following are most commonly included:

  • Meetings will start on time. (Some teams include a penalty for being late. This may involve a small standard contribution to the team recreation fund, the requirement to take notes at the next meeting, or as one innovative team determined, the requirement to sing a few lines of the song of the team's choosing.)
  • A designated scribe will take minutes and publish them for all.
  • An agenda is published in advance and an initial step in team meetings is to agree on the amount of time allowed for discussion of each topic.
  • Decision making is by consensus. Consensus hopes for unanimous support. Individual team members may not fully agree with a team decision, but will fully support it.
  • Silence means consent. Since all team members are expected to contribute their views on issues and concerns, when the team achieves consensus, those remaining silent are understood to be supporters of the decision. Absence may also mean consent when the team agrees that absent members will be given notice of team decisions and the opportunity to express concerns prior to the decision becoming final.
  • Team members agree to hold themselves and each other accountable for commitments made to one another.

High Performance Teams usually include the following norms:

  • No Zingers. Zingers are put-downs or cheap shots directed at fellow team members. Zingers, while common in the American culture, show a lack of respect for team members and can cause individual team members who receive zinger to mentally withdraw from team participation.
  • Celebrate Success. High Performance Teams take time-outs to recognize small steps or progress towards milestones or objectives. This act of recognizing small victories is essential in the development of team confidence and commitment. Individual contributions as well as overall team results can be identified by any team member for recognition by the entire team. Celebrations may take different forms but most often might involve a simple team cheer.
  • No Rank/All Peers. While it is best to start out with an elected or designated team leader, High Performance Teams strive to achieve a state where leadership migrates from one team member to another to take advantage of the skills or abilities of different team members as the topic or situation changes. A critical success factor in the development of High Performance Teams is the concept that all team members are equal in decision making and that every team member is valued and has a contribution to make. It is the responsibility and obligation of every team member to identify the skills and talents of all other team members and to encourage each team member to employ those talents in the teams progress toward objectives.
  • Have Fun. Working on a High Performance Team can and should be fun. But the team needs to recognize the importance of play in developing team spirit and morale. Deadly serious teams can create a Titanic mentality which will significantly lower chances for success. Humor and fun, so long as it is not at the expense of others, can help build energy and improve the teams ability to succeed. Time out needs to be taken for fun. This can be in the form of team building activities, team brain teaser problem solving. or new learning such as juggling, or drawing, poetry or song writing.
  • Quality Reviews. The team needs to consciously set time aside to monitor the quality of its work and progress towards goals. These quality checks can be as short as a minute or two where one member asks the others, "what did we learn? How could we improve our performance, based on what we have observed over the last few hours or days?"

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