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3 best ways to wreck Kanban. Don’t have a working agreement.

Achieving Team Alignment with Kanban: The Importance of a Working Agreement


One of the primary ways to derail your Kanban strategy and fail to achieve the expected value is by not agreeing on how to work as a team. Without a clear working agreement, your team members are likely to operate based on personal preferences, leading to chaos and inefficiency.

The Necessity of a Working Agreement

A working agreement is essential for team alignment and efficiency. Here’s why it’s crucial and how to establish one:

  1. Lack of Agreement Leads to Disarray:
  • If team members do not agree on how to work, each person will approach tasks based on individual preferences, causing misalignment.
  • Without consensus, the team lacks direction, leading to random and inefficient task selection and execution.
  1. Scrum Framework Misconceptions:
  • Many believe that merely adopting Scrum or another framework will solve all problems. However, frameworks provide guidelines, not detailed instructions.
  • Scrum, for instance, doesn’t dictate the use of story points or planning poker; these are optional practices. Teams must decide on these specifics to ensure cohesion.
  1. The Board Game Analogy:
  • Think of your team as players in a board game. If everyone makes up their own rules, the game becomes chaotic and unwinnable.
  • Similarly, teams need to agree on the rules for success, how to achieve it, and what steps are necessary for incremental wins.

Steps to Establish a Working Agreement

  1. Define Roles and Responsibilities:
  • Clearly outline each team member’s role and their responsibilities. This ensures everyone knows what is expected of them.
  1. Set Common Goals:
  • Agree on the team’s objectives and how to measure success. This could involve setting specific targets for deliverables, timelines, or quality standards.
  1. Agree on Processes and Tools:
  • Decide on the methodologies and tools to be used, whether it’s Scrum, Kanban, or another framework. Ensure everyone understands and agrees on these methods.
  1. Create a Definition of Workflow:
  • Document the workflow stages and establish criteria for moving tasks from one stage to the next. This ensures consistency and transparency.
  1. Regularly Review and Adjust:
  • Continuously revisit and adjust the working agreement as needed. This allows the team to adapt to changes and improve processes over time.

The Consequences of Not Having a Working Agreement

Without a working agreement, teams operate in a state of total disarray:

  • Inconsistent Work Practices:
  • Team members might work in different ways, leading to inefficiencies and misunderstandings.
  • Lack of Clear Direction:
  • Without agreed-upon goals and processes, the team lacks a unified direction, making it difficult to achieve success.
  • Increased Frustration and Conflict:
  • Misaligned expectations and unclear roles can lead to frustration and conflict within the team.


Establishing a working agreement is crucial for the success of any team, whether using Kanban, Scrum, or another methodology. By sitting down and agreeing on how to work together, teams can achieve alignment, efficiency, and ultimately, success.

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