What are ground rules?

Ground rules are simple guidelines that improve teamwork and communication at Ikigai Infotech LLP. Ground rules define a team’s common set of expectations and ways of working together.  

For everybody

For everybody, 
  • Be kind.
  • Be candid.
  • Be courteous.
  • Be constructive.
  • Be creative.
  • Be encouraging.
  • Be honest.
  • Be open-minded.
  • Be prepared.
  • Be present.
  • Be productive.
  • Be punctual.
  • Be respectful.
  • Be thankful.

For discussions

For discussions,  Starting:
  • Cell phones are off or on the silent notification
  • Encourage everyone to participate.
  • Listen actively and attentively.
  • Participate fully.
  • Respect confidentiality.
  • Seek debate.
  • Minimize distractions.
  • Speak your mind.
  • Have fun!
  • Differences of opinion are natural and useful.
  • Disagree in private, and show a united front in public.
  • Ask for clarification if you are confused.
  • Do not interrupt, unless you are the facilitator.
  • Take responsibility for the quality of the discussion.
  • Build on one another’s comments; work toward shared understanding.
  • Stay on topic, don’t go on tangents
  • Be cognizant of the level of detail required for discussion.
  • Know when to take discussions offline.
  • Do not offer opinions without supporting evidence.
  • Avoid put-downs, even humorous ones.
  • No side conversations.
  • Speak for yourself, not on behalf of others.
  • Speak from your own experience, without generalizing.
  • Listen with an open mind before you speak.
  • One person talks at a time.
  • Take responsibility for what you need in the meeting.

For partners

For partners, 
  • View the issue as “we” not “me”.
  • Accept where you are. It’s OK if things aren’t perfect.
  • Look for your part in the problem. In a partnership, partners play a role in happiness or unhappiness.
  • Make it safe to share. This includes giving a heads up about a big conversation, choosing a neutral time and place, and so on.
  • Focus on one topic, rather than multiple topics.
  • Focus on one goal, rather than just airing your needs.
  • Identify the issue from each partner’s perspective.
  • Brainstorm solutions.
  • Ask for a timeout, if you want one.
  • Acknowledge that growth together is a process, and allow time for changes to happen.
  • Agree to check in from time to time to discuss the issue if it can’t be solved right away.
  • If talking feels difficult, then consider using writing. For example, you can write an email or journal entry to ask questions, suggest improvements, or describe emotions.
  • If communication feels blocked, then consider using a third party. For example, you can involve a counselor, coach, mediator, therapist, or trusted friend.

For teams

For teams, here are some examples.
  • All ideas are valid.
  • All voices are heard.
  • Ask questions if you are confused.
  • Presume good-faith intentions.
  • Test assumptions and inferences.
  • Try not to distract your teammates.
  • Use every failure as an opportunity to learn.
  • Debate the issue, not the person.
  • Critique the ideas, not the people.
  • Challenge one another, and do so respectfully.
  • Silence does not mean agreement nor disagreement.
  • If you are offended by anything said during the discussion, acknowledge it immediately.
  • Aggression or personal attacks are not ok and will be halted immediately.
  • Aim to understand each others’ strengths and also weaknesses.

For team success

  • Dependability: we get things done on time and meet expectations.
  • Clarity: we have clear goals and well-defined roles.
  • Meaning: our work has personal significance to each member.
  • Impact: our work is purposeful and positively impacts the greater good.
  • Psychological safety: everyone is safe to take risks, voice opinions, and ask questions.

For team decisions

For team decisions, here are some examples thanks to Amazon’s “high-velocity decision making” tips.
  • Decision speed matters.
  • A high-velocity decision environment keeps up energy and dynamism.
  • A high-velocity decision environment is more fun than a low-velocity decision environment.
  • Never use a one-size-fits-all decision-making process.
  • Make most decisions with 2/3 of the information you want; if you wait for more, you’re probably being slow.
  • Get good at quickly recognizing and correcting bad decisions.
  • When we’re good at correcting decisions, then being wrong may be less costly, whereas being slow may be more costly.
  • Use the phrase “disagree and commit” to go fast: if you have a conviction on a particular direction even though there’s no consensus, say, “Look, I know we disagree on this but will you gamble with me on it? Disagree and commit?”
  • Recognize true misalignment issues early and escalate them immediately. Do not let decisions stagnate into “You’ve worn me down”, which is an awful decision-making process, slow and de-energizing.

For team communications

For team communications, here are some examples.
    • Team communications prefer Basecamp pings/chat/campfire over email.
    • If you email, then use the “To” field if you need action, and the “Cc” field if you don’t need action.
  • Teammates commit to reading communications sent directly to them within 1 business day.
  • Team whiteboards are erasable any time; do not write “Do not erase”.
  • If someone is wearing headphones, do not disturb unless there is an emergency.
  • Team bonding is good.
  • Team bonding that is focused on alcohol/cigarettes/tobacco  is not good, because some people can’t participate.
  • Each teammate gets their own credentials, such as a username & password.
  • Each teammate has a crossover person that is able to handle the teammate’s work in their absence.

For team calendars

For team calendars, here are some examples. Aims:
  • Aim toward morning times instead of afternoon times.
  • Aim toward morning times for open-mind meetings, and afternoon times for heads-down focus.
  • Aim toward 25 minutes instead of 30, 50 minutes instead of 60; this is the Harvard idea. [Google Calendar has an inbuilt feature for this called speedy meetings]
  • Aim towards having agenda clearly mentioned in the event scheduled. 
  • Aim towards avoiding the overlapping of meetings, check in prior if the calendar is already blocked (busy-marked) by the attendees 
  • Aim towards sending the calendar invitation for any meeting which may need more than 10 minutes to discuss. 
  • The abbreviation “OOO” means “Out Of Office”.
  • Use a team calendar to share events, such as important meetings, deadlines, holidays, birthdays, etc.

For meetings

For meetings, here are some examples.
  • Start on time, stop on time.
  • Start by stating the agenda and the objective.
  • Share responsibility for the meeting’s effectiveness.
  • Remind the group of its own ground rules if necessary.
  • Turn off your mobile phone.
  • Use your phone, tablet, laptop etc. only for legitimate meeting activities such as note-taking, presenting, facilitating, etc.
  • If more than one person is wanting to speak at a time, then raise hands and wait to be called on.
  • Do not interrupt when another participant is speaking. (The facilitator can interrupt as needed to support the process.)
  • All focus on one conversation; if you need to have a side conversation, take it out of the room.
  • There will be no review for those who are late.
  • Ask for more information.
  • Be brief.
  • Be specific.
  • Beware assumptions, generalizations, or exaggerations.
  • Use examples when needed to explain what you mean.
  • Take responsibility for bringing the discussion to where it most needs to be.
  • Is there an “undiscussable” issue that’s really at the heart of things?
  • Take responsibility for your own feelings and experiences.
  • What is most important in this discussion?
  • Use I-statements, such as “I felt so angry when I saw that”, rather than You-statements, such as “You made me so angry when you did that.”
  • Emotional expression is welcome.
  • Avoid name-calling, stereotypes, cheap shots, or jokes at someone’s expense.
  • Work toward understanding—you don’t have to agree in order to paraphrase.
  • Step up, step back.
  • Speak for yourself.
  • Common ownership of ideas; don’t use names unless necessary for clarity. (We are here to debate ideas, not personalities.)
  • Minimize repetition.
For meetings, choose one focus:
  • Informing: status updates, content sharing, keynotes, lectures, etc.
  • Solutioning: solving problems, making decisions, strategizing, prioritizing, etc.
  • Innovating: brainstorming, generating ideas, evaluating options, etc.
  • Team Building: all-hands, kick-offs, outings, off-sites, gaining commitment for a change effort, etc.

For planning meetings

For planning meetings, here are some examples. Before a meeting:
  • Invite people with enough notice.
  • In the invitation, including the participants, meeting objective, desired outcome, and any preparation that you want participants to do.
Plan a meeting:
  • Is everyone clear on the objectives and outcomes?
  • Is everyone clear on what their roles will be in the meeting?
  • Who’s coming? What are their roles? Do they know that’s their role?
  • What supplies will you need in the meeting? Do you have them?
  • What activities will you do to get to the desired outcome? Not theoretically. Tactically.
  • Do we want to allot time for a retrospective? If so, with whom, when, and where?
Prepare a meeting room:
  • Is the room available?
  • Is the room reserved?
  • Is anyone doing setup and/or teardown? If so, who and when?
  • Is everything working, such as projectors, monitors, phone systems?
Start a meeting:
  • State the objective: “Here’s why we are here…”
  • State the outcome: “At the end of this meeting, we expect to have X. To get there we will (explain the process of what we are about to do).”
  • Remind every one of the ground rules: “Here are our ground rules. Are we still agreed on them? Is there anything we would like to add, remove, or change for this meeting?”
  • Remind everyone to focus: “If there is anything that does not fit with this meeting, we will defer it by writing it down then following up about it after this meeting.”
Keep a meeting on track:
  • Honor the meeting agreements.
  • Remind others who don’t follow them, including ourselves.
  • Defer anything that takes the meeting off track.
  • Work your magic.
Conclude a meeting:
  • Summarize what we accomplished, agreed, etc.
  • Remind how the meeting fits into the broader context.
  • Explain what will happen next and recap any next steps.
Follow up after a meeting:
  • Take time to breathe and process.
  • Communicate with the participants to share the outcomes, action items, etc.
  • Do a retrospective with the team.
  • Take action on the next steps.
  • Follow up on any deferred items, commitments, questions, etc.

For remote meetings

  • Prefer headphones over speakers. This is because headphones minimize office sound, and also some headphones have noise-cancellation features.
  • Prefer push-to-talk over always-on-talk. This is because push-to-talk minimizes group noise.

For stand ups and stand down (Scrums or update meetings)

For standups, stand down, and similar check-in briefing meetings, here are some examples. See MartinFowler.com Patterns for Daily Standup Meetings Examples to talk about with the standup participants:
  • Who attends?
  • What do we talk about?
  • What order do we talk in?
  • Where and when?
  • How do we keep the energy level up?
  • How do we encourage autonomy?
Structure the contributions using the following format:
  • What did I accomplish yesterday?
  • What will I do today?
  • What obstacles are impeding my progress?
For stand-downs and similar check-out briefing meetings, here are some examples:
  • Insights
  • Challenges
  • Puzzles
  • Appreciations
  • Action Items
For standups and stand downs, have a strong signal to end:
  • For example, one person says 3, 2, 1, then everyone claps

For feedback

  • Giving and receiving feedback is an ongoing goal of ours.
  • We value feedback being consistent, continuous, and constructive.
  • We value feedback that is timely, and comes early and often.
  • We value positive complimentary feedback and we also value constructive negative feedback.
  • To give and receive truly candid feedback, people must feel a sense of safety and trust.
  • To create safety and trust, we get to know each other and we talk about emotions.
  • It’s OK to say no to giving feedback or receiving feedback.
  • We aim to give lots of positive feedback; a good ratio is 5 positive interactions to 1 negative interaction, even in the midst of a conflict.
  • We praise effort and we also praise ability.
  • It’s great to offer some positive feedback, then stop there.
  • Start small with feedback.
  • Timely feedback is better than late feedback.
  • Actionable feedback is better than unactionable feedback.
  • Transparent feedback is better than opaque feedback.
  • Ask for feedback often.
  • Leaders need to explicitly lead great feedback culture.
  • Ask.
  • Don’t Punish.
  • Show the impact.
  • Make it easy.
  • Create safe places for feedback.
  • Create a regular system for feedback.
  • Make feedback secure and safe.
  • Start small.
  • Implement feedback culture as normal.
  • Have a variety of feedback channels that work well for a variety of personalities.
  • Foster both positive feedback and negative feedback.
  • Explain measures behind decisions regarding feedback.
  • Explain the benefits of feedback.
  • Focus on transparency, so everyone understands how the feedback system works and its purpose.
  • Talk explicitly with the team about the feedback culture you want to create.
  • Create feedback norms for the team.
  • Systematize mechanisms for giving feedback.
  • Ensure you’re giving lots of positive feedback.
  • Value relationship-building.
  • Emphasize “What is going well” and “What could go better”.
  • We value increasing people’s strengths over trying to fix people’s weaknesses.

For documentation

For documentation, here are some examples. Tools & System:
  • Avoid use of MS office word, excel, powerpoints. Instead use google docs, sheets, slides.
Team formation documentation:
  • The Self Serving HR Software states our teammates’ names and contact info.
Standardized formats:
  • Dates and times are written using ISO standard sortability, such as the formats DD-MM-YYYY and HH:MM:SS.