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How to Develop Group Norms: Step-by-Step


How to Develop Group Norms: Step-by-Step

Teams Benefit from Discussing and Establishing Group Norms

iStockphoto / Jacob Wackerhausen

In every team, over time, a set of rules is developed for how team members will interact with each other and their team's mission. These rules or norms will form regardless of whether they are effective for the team. In fact, left to develop on their own, some of the ways of interacting and making progress may actually undermine the team's efforts to succeed.

Consequently, you will want to consciously determine the kinds of rules, guidelines and norms that the team members agree to follow. There are significant reasons why a team will want to develop their team norms. Once convinced, these are the steps to follow to reach agreement on a set of norms that will guide the behavior and interaction of team members.

Difficulty: Average
Time Required: Several Hours

Here's How:

  1. Form and charter a team with a project, process improvement, or product development task. Or, pull together an existing work group.

  2. Read about group and team norms to understand the concept. Start with reading How to Create Team Norms prior to the meeting.

  3. Schedule and hold a meeting to establish and adopt group relationship guidelines or group norms. All members of the team or work group must be present at the meeting so the resultant group norms are "owned" by all members of the group.

  4. With an external facilitator leading, or a member of the group, in the absence of a facilitator, leading, all group members should brainstorm a list of guidelines that will help create an effective team.

    Remember that in a true brainstorming session, the more ideas generated the better. Do not comment on nor critique the ideas. Simply ask a group member to record them on a flip chart or white board where the whole group can see them.

  5. Once the list of group norms is generated, you will want to cross redundant ideas off the list. You can decide to keep all of the group norms generated, or through discussion, you can determine the group norms you wish to keep and support as a group.

    There is no recommended number of group norms and new group norms can be added over time if the group experiences the need for more guidelines.

    Keep in mind that "all" group behavior cannot, and should not, be legislated, but the most important interaction areas do need attention. Examples include effective conflict, communication, and keeping commitments.

  6. Each member of the group commits to “living” the guidelines. They also commit to telling each other if they believe a group member is violating an agreed upon group norm.

  7. Following the meeting, distribute the group norms to all team members. Post the group norms in the team’s meeting room.

  8. Periodically evaluate the effectiveness of the group on achieving its business goals as well as its members’ relationship goals.


  1. All members of a work group must be present or postpone the session.
  2. Do record the group norms agreed upon as memories are short.
  3. Evaluate whether the group is following the norms, at least monthly.

What You Need

  • Flip Chart and Paper or White Board and Markers
  • Meeting Room
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