10 ways to make your social contract stick

Kiandra - 18/07/2021
A social contract is an agreement between the members of your project team regarding how the team will work together and the expected behaviour of all members.

It is unique to a particular project team and is not something that is transferable to another team.  

The whole project team must come together to discuss and establish clear guidelines on how the team would hold each member accountable and how differences and member dissatisfaction will be addressed. 

So, how do you make sure your social contracts stick? We’ve put together the following 10 suggestions. 

  1. Keep a boilerplate of team agreements and re-use when appropriate. New agreements will make the list or drop off the list depending on how the team is working together. The trick is for it to evolve as the team does.  
  2. In the initial phases of a team forming, an agreement might be 'Don’t fight the framework' but after a few months, the agreement may change to 'Add to the framework'.  
  3. Try to keep the agreements to a few words so they can be used like a mantra, e.g. 'Don’t fight the framework'. When they are a few words they are easier to remember and repeat with clarity. 
  4. Make them visible. Don’t allow them to be buried in the depths of your Confluence space.  
  5. Use the social contract as a basis for feedback with either direct feedback or via a team retro. Refer to it and provide examples of convergence or divergence.  
  6. The whole team should be involved in its preparation and try to make it fun and memorable. Try building your social contract with LEGO where the shapes of blocks represent your agreements. There are heaps of fun ways to facilitate a social contract session with your team.  
  7. This is your time to say what behaviour you expect out of your teammates. Think, if you would not accept it from your partner, kids, and friends – then will you accept it from your workmates?  
  8. Make sure all new team members are on-boarded effectively by including a run-through of the social contract. This step is often missed.  
  9. A social contract allows for psychological safety, so treat it like a blueprint for being happy at work.  
  10. You can start at any time and make it as simple as required. For example, it could just start out as an agreement to be at stand-ups on time. Then as challenges emerge, build on it. 

Need a hand putting your social contract together? Contact us, we’ll sort you out.  

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