Using ground rules for your team

Ground rules. These essential standards, according to Miriam Webster's dictionary, are rules about what we need to do in a particular situation or event. In building teams, ground rules can be useful for facilitating a team's understanding among one another and help with communication around its core competencies and principles.  

For example, having ground rules are excellent for conducting meetings.  They offer simple techniques for team members to guide each other and allows them to focus on working to reach goals.  Ground rules can help to promote shared understandings. For example, when the team members must meet and exchange complex information that involves complicated issues.  Ground rules can set the expectations for the way the team conducts discussions in meetings.  

Having ground rules for your project teams can PM's optimize the times their team spends in meetings.

Setting ground rules.  

To establish ground rules, it is important that this is deliberate. Set aside time for creating the rules, and make it clear to the team that the rules will be used to accomplish the project goals.  Starting the process will require the project managers/leaders to lead by scheduling time and setting the right atmosphere. Make sure the team members have a clear understanding of the rules' objectives. This time spent and all the effort will be well worth the time.

The manager/leader should facilitate their teams' first ground rule setting meetings. They can suggest a few base ground rules of their own, and then allow the team members to make the rest. The process will need to become their own for the project.  

My experience has been that the teams that develop that ground rules tend to be more efficient in meetings, and are high-functioning mostly self-governed.  

Additionally, when a team makes its own, the members seem more keen to abide by them and less eager to break them. I put the teams in charge of the rules. They manage them, and they change them if needed following the other rules for changes to the ground rules established by all team members.  

How does your team use similar rules?  How is it working?

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