Writing a team manifesto

When you're trying to break new ground and do things in new ways a team manifesto can help clear the air and get top down buy-in to your ways of working.

I never needed a team manifesto

I was working with a client recently and we had a challenge, the organisation wasn't used to Agile ways of working. It's pretty old hat now and I thought the days of Agile evangelism were behind us. But evangelism of some methodology is always going to exist in our life time so the manifesto may well be useful for years to come.

Key things you can achieve with the help of a manifesto

Your manifesto is a rallying cry to those around you to declare that you are here, you have a mission and this is how you're going to do it! Things you'll want to cover in your manifesto can include:

  • The goal your team is looking to achieve
  • How you plan to measure your success
  • The identity of your team
  • Your guiding principles
  • The methods and tools you plan to utilise
  • The output you will produce

The goal

Your goal gives your team a shared purpose, something to orient around and work together towards. There's nothing unusual about this, just to say don't forget it here because everything you say in your manifesto herein hinges off it.

Measuring success

Saying how your going to measure success is pretty important. It may demonstrate a new way of doing it (e.g. OKRs) and it's important people understand why you've chosen you how to measure your success if it's off-piste from how the rest of the organisation does it. 

The other key reason to define your measures of success is it makes your team accountable, a little pressure on yourself is no bad thing. I like to think it helps focus the mind, just be sure you've set the right measures to achieve your goal.

Identity

The identity of your team is more than just the job roles, although I would include that too. The identity of your team should include the characteristics of how you work and behave.

Think about how you work, is it cross-functional, multi-disciplinary, agile, lean? Put each one you are or strive to be and say why it's important to your team.

Apart from these management and organisational systems think about the soft skills your team want to champion. Are you candid, are you radically candid? Do you believe in an adversarial environment, do you want to promote getting shit done?

"Psychological safety – We believe everyone makes decisions in good faith to the best of their ability, we use open feedback loops to learn when things don’t go well rather than look to find a scapegoat."

Principals

Possibly the most important part of a team manifesto is your principles. Some of your principles may be borne out of your identity, put them wherever feels right. But lots of them are about how to do business like how you plan to disseminate your work and if you prioritise accuracy over speed or vice versa. You may be committed to leaving a strong legacy and so strong documentation might be a principle to highlight. 

Tools

It's important to call out the tools you wish to employ to enable you to achieve your goals. Explain the benefit they bring and why you use them over other tools. Failure to do so may lead to you losing those tools completely or to other less favourable ones.

Think about listing your collaboration tools, your planning software and development environments.

Output

Finally, the output. A key requirement of any team is to produce some sort of output. This is essentially a roadmap, keep it light and in line with the goals. Perhaps give a brief overview of why you've chosen your route to head down. Caveat it as necessary and don't be shy to mention the technology you think you'll be working with and where people will find your work once live.

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