Session Zero with Your Dev Team

Published on by David VanDusen.

Aligning with your software development team on what the team norms are can have a huge impact on productivity and camaraderie. Agile teams often have processes for aligning on norms gradually over time, such as sprint retrospective meetings. It’s less common for teams to set aside time for the explicit purpose of discussing and documenting team norms. We get so caught up in work that we’d rather get shit done than…well…just about anything else.

Folks who play tabletop role-playing games know about this problem, too. In a group that will be playing a campaign for months or years together, it’s valuable to get alignment on how things are going to work early on so that everyone can let their guard down and enjoy the game. The way this is done is through a meeting called ‘session 0’.

Session 0 checklist

There are great session 0 checklists for role-playing games. They have sections dedicated to team building, scheduling, a framework for play, and house rules. This could be a great structure for setting expectations within a dev team, too!

Team building

It’s important to know what every individual is bringing to the table. The team can help build each other up if they know where everyone’s strengths are. Here are some ideas for items to go over with each member of the team.


Scheduling meetings can be difficult without knowing everyone’s availability. Here are some important things about scheduling to align on.

Framework for play

Every team is going to have different kinds of work and different constraints. The team should define the structure for their approach to working on projects, maintenance, and handling emergencies.

House rules

Devs have pet peeves. Write down the rules, and align on the consequences of breaking them.

Make it a regular thing

Session 0 and the documentation that comes out of it doesn’t need to be a one-time thing. The document can be reviewed and revised as the team makes changes to how they work. When new team members join, have another session 0 to realign on how things work.