phew! What a busy month last month has been on various fronts! I finally managed to finish article on Team Agreements. Enjoy!

Hope to finish my blog on Negotiations soon. Stay tuned!


Holiday Greetings!

My article on Project Risk Management using Mind Map is accepted and published this week on UC Santa Cruz Project Management web site. This is a great web site discussing various topics on Project Management. People involved in Project Management may find it useful and learn a lot. I encourage you to visit it.

My article is the  focus topic for the week of December 22nd. You can view it at:


You can also view this article anytime by visiting:


I had one more opportunity  to volunteer at PMI Silicon Valley chapter this week. During break out session, one of the project managers described the problems he was having with his team members. He was describing how team members are having conflicts during meetings and its impact on the project. After further discussions with this project manager, I realized that proper team agreements were not defined by  this team which could have avoided some of these conflicts.

Today, I’m going to talk about the importance of team agreement. To describe the problem, allow me set up the scene where project meeting is taking place.

During planning phase of project, project manager was having an important meeting with stakeholders. The discussion was surrounding the requirements provided by stakeholders. Some of these requirements were in conflicts with each other. Some of the requirements had to be eliminated in order to keep the project in the confines of defined scope.

Various stakeholders felt very strongly to keep their requirements. There were intense arguments made by multiple stakeholders. After about 20 minutes into the meeting, three key stakeholders abruptly got up and walked out of the meeting. Same thing went on for next several meetings.  Needless to say, the requirement analysis phase of the project was finally completed but left behind a team that did not function well together, along with a trail of frustration, bad feelings, and jurisdictional divides.

This is a real-life scenario that occurred on one of the corporate wide IT projects that I participated in as stakeholder some years ago. What went wrong in the situation? What could have helped to avoid the situation? If there were proper team agreements defined and utilized, the situation could have been avoided.

The team agreement is an effective way to address such issues. When you create a set  of team agreements on how you want to function when difficult  issues arise, you are much better equipped to handle the challenges that occur. The team agreements help you work together in a way that truly honors each other and a return to a sense of defined purpose when you experience the inevitable challenges of working in team settings. Each member needs to learn to communicate with professionalism, confidence and compassion even in difficult situations.

The critical part of a successful team environment is making sure everyone has the same vision, before moving into action. The classic “forming, storming, morning, performing ” stages that teams go through are best managed with set of agreements. The agreements serve the norming function as members of the team agree on how they will work with each other. The agreement reflects the resolution of their “storming”.

The team agreements can be utilized on projects using SCRUM as well. You should continue to maintain team agreements and update them as the outcome of retrospectives. The refined team agreements can be used in subsequent sprints. This is an important step in the evolution of ‘just a group of people’ to a SCRUM team.

One of the most important tasks in early meetings is to sign off on a team agreement that clearly defines your expectations for each other, your operating parameters, and the ways in which you will define success at the end of the project. There are numerous ways to create a team agreements.. The main idea is to keep it simple and real. It should be defined by the team, not just by project manager. Ask team 3-5 things they believe a team should do to support themselves moving toward the goal. They might come up with items such as “active participation” and “communication”.

Encourage them to identify specific soft skills and interpersonal behaviors. Make sure to get signoff from the team on agreements document. Some teams agree to this by demonstrating a show of hands, others may physically retain the paper that includes the list of agreements and brainstorming notes. This step enforces public accountability with each other and project manager. Some teams have them even printed up and post them near their offices or conference room.

I have included a sample set of team agreements to use or to help you compose your own.

  • Have Open communication and active participation
  • Utilize Lessons learned from experience
  • Treat all team members with respect and value other team member’s opinion and time
  • Be a Leader
  • Respect others’ views/thoughts and appreciate contribution
  • Resolve all conflicts positively
  • Hold yourself accountable
  • Define the operating parameters within which to conduct meetings
  • All formal meetings have an agenda and have one conversation at a time during the meeting

There are number of benefits of creating team agreements.

The team agreements  help team members  work together in a way that truly honors each other and return to a sense of aligned purpose when team experiences the inevitable challenges of working on any project. It makes everyone in team aware of the expectations of the group.

It creates a foundation for building trusting relationships, which strengthens the team’s infrastructure. It provides forum for open communication. It also allows team members to be accountable and allows project manager to offload this responsibility.

What’s more? Having the team agreements can help your team get rid of assumptions about what’s expected as they interact with each other which can increase trust and impact more of and performance. A highly functioning team is a infrastructure for a successful organization, and as a leader, you can help the team set the foundation for success!  The ultimate role model for the agreement is the team leader. Talk about it, refer to it and most importantly, use it!

Note: You’re welcome to “reprint” this article as long as it remains complete and unaltered (including name of the author), and you send a copy of your reprint to bkthakore@gmail.com.

Coming up.

Happy Thanksgiving!

As a member of PM PM SIG group, I recently attended breakfast session on Using Mind Maps for Risk Management.  The presentation was good. It would be been better if presenter’s brand new laptop worked to display his slides/Mind Map templates. We ended up spending quite a bit of time out of an hour to fix the problem.  I heard a comment from somebody in back…”talk about risk management…” 😉  Still, I thought the talk was pretty good and found presenter very enthusiastic to  present the topic.   I found it interesting and it made me think about how one can use Mind Map for Risk Management on different projects.

How can we use Mind Map for Risk Management? Let’s first talk about Mind Maps briefly ( look out for my upcoming blog on Mind Map / MindManager).  What is Mind Map? Mind maps are a graphical network diagram with nodes or branches. They are laid out using different colors, and icons to help convey an idea. Mind map can be very useful for brainstorming activity, hence they are often called brainstorm maps, are illustrated views of an idea. One of the most popular commercial  Mind Map tools available is MindManager. We will use it for the purpose of discussion.

According to PMBOK,  Time, Cost and Scope are three components of Triple Constraints. Risk has the potential to affect all of them. It’s critical to manage risk as  part of overall Project Management. That means identifying a set of processes for risk management that includes planning, identification, analysis, response, monitoring and control.

During the risk management process, once risk planning is completed, risk identification begins. Risk identification is the iterative process of determining potential project risks that are provided as input into future risk analysis and response planning processes. It is carried out during nearly all phases (planning, execution, monitor/control,etc). The inputs such as WBS, scope statement, schedule, resource plan,etc. are used to develop a list of potential project risks.

Mind Maps can be especially used for risk identification. The iterative nature of the risk identification process makes it a perfect candidate for mind maps. Not that it is also nonlinear as it is being done continuously during various phases.  One risk may turn into other identified risks. It can be difficult to track them and express relationships between them as risk log evolves. During a brainstorming session, project manager  encourages team members to identify risks and uses a mind map to capture them and generate new ideas from the team. Again, this will be an iterative process and mind map for risk will evolve over the time. Over the time, relationships and dependencies evolve for various risks and are represented using nodes and arrows in mind map.

Later on, this mind map can be utilized for subsequent processes of Risk Management as well and can be extended to include risk response strategies, impact analysis,etc.

In summary, the mind map enables brainstorming, relationship and prioritization of risks  in graphical form (picture is worth 1000 words). It also helps to categorize project risks into the time, scope and resource categories. The mind maps present unique opportunity for project manager to mange risk effectively.

coming up