Ground rules

One key aspect for success in any project is around Expectation Management and a key factor in Expectation Management are having clear ground rules.

What are ground rules?

Ground rules set clear expectations for how you’ll work during the project. This can include everything around:

  • Respect (e.g. respecting your teams time)
  • Working time (e.g. core working hours)
  • How do you team want to work?
    • What’s important for them? (E.g. what’s their ethos around delivering project deliverables)
    • How do they manage quality?
  • How should meetings be managed? (e.g. with a clear agenda/purpose)

How can you set ground rules?

I like to do this at the start of every project or engagement. We normally hold a workshop between the team/ team and client to elaborate on what are the key things we need to consider and what’s important for us. As we work virtually, I tend to do this via an online collaboration tool (e.g. Microsoft Teams Whiteboard) and we can add all of the comments are ‘sticky notes’ and then we prioritise which are the most important for us as a team and within the project.

Can the rules change?

Yes! The team need to agree about the changes. In my experience, we have changed the rules when the project has changed a lot e.g. working hours are adjusted if a new team is in a different time zone or if there are changes to how the project will be run. We hold a similar workshop to what we’ve done before and agree on the main changes that need to be made.

What’s important to consider?

When looking at the ground rules for your team it needs to be reflective of a few key areas:

  • What your team are like/how they want to work:
    • If you’ve got a team that like working independently or collaboratively, this will affect the ground rules that they will make and you will need to support this accordingly
  • What is your project delivering?
    • Are you working agile? Waterfall? Are your team aware of what they’re delivering and the critical aspects of project delivery? When I’ve got teams working agile, this will also reflect the ground rules that they set but there are some rules which will remain fixed regardless of the delivery methodology
  • What is your companies culture?
    • A companies culture can impact how your team work and function together. If your companies culture could be detrimental to your teams ability to work together, you may want to consider what you’re able to influence within your team.
  • Are you given autonomy to manage the project as you’d like?
    • Your role as a leader will also affect how you can deliver projects but also what is important from a teambuilding perspective. Create the best environment that you can for your team to be able to work.


I would recommend that you place your ground rules in a location that the team can see every day. If you’re working in a physical office, this could be in the team room or alternatively on the background of a Teams call if you’re working virtually. I like to share the Ground rules with each member of the team after they have been created and give them to chance to give feedback.

What ground rules have you created within your team? what is the most important factors that you have seen to project success?

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