Moving Team Health Check to business teams

By Bart Slaets
#ITer #InnovatingSoftware #PeopleManager #CultureEatsStrategyForBreakfast #HusbandWith3Kids #Cycling

In the last few years, Protime went through tremendous changes within our software development department. We are becoming more and more agile, following the Kanban development principles and giving a lot of initiative to the teams to change the way they work. Off course, by guiding and challenging the teammembers through the entire journey. The move we made was very much inspired by the Spotify engineering culture. This is, just like our own journey, a continuous story with no end date.

Involvement is essential to success

In my experience as Technology Director, I’ve learned that the best way to make progress is to work incrementally. So, to change a small thing, see if it works, make changes if necessary, and then change the next small thing. As our company culture is one of our main assets, people involvement is essential in this change process. If these changes are initiated and supported by every member of a team, they will be accepted and adopted more easily.

What about the general overview

By working on continuous changes focusing on day to day processes, it’s a challenge to keep a clear overview. How are we doing in general? How high is the workload within the teams and can they cope? Do the teams feel they are contributing to the bigger picture or are they stuck with frustrations? To make sure your team can stay productive and more importantly motivated, it is essential to pay attention to the team’s health.

Monitoring team’s health

That’s why we created a small online questionnaire asking team members how things were going. After doing this a few times I was not getting the results I wanted (people didn’t fill it out, or failed to give valuable feedback). I then found another post on the Spotify lab site about the Health Check Model. An easy to use visualization of what to improve within a team, using game cards with statements for the manager and traffic light cards (red – orange – green) for the team members to respond on the statements.

“A lot of companies experiment with ways of measuring and visualizing how their teams are doing. For example, managers or coaches in larger organizations who want to get a sense of where they should focus their improvement efforts, spot systemic problems, and help teams become more self-aware so they can focus their improvement efforts too. … Organizational improvement work is very much a guessing game. A systemic approach with clear visualization can reduce this guesswork.”

By Spotify Labs - Squad Health Check model

So, like a lot of people before me, I downloaded the presentation, printed it out, and tried it with one of our development teams. The feedback was awesome. Everybody loved it. Not only the global result of the green or red lights is useful, but the discussions leading to small improvements is invaluable. Also, the personal feeling of every team member becomes visible, making it possible to make certain topics easier to talk about.

Making it corporate proof

After having executed this Team Health Check within all our Development feature* teams, I performed this exercise with my business colleagues during a directors meeting (leaving out the software development cards). Also at the teamleader meeting one week later, the topic rose about measuring how teams are doing within the company. I presented the Team Health Check and the idea was received with enthusiasm.

Our HR department and I sat together to adapt the set of cards to be applicable within every team. We generalized the development specific questions. For example, we changed ‘Health of the code base’ to ‘Health of our toolbox’, where you can translate this in the question: ‘in my day to day job, the tools I use are helping me, or rather slow me down’. For a sales person this could be a tool like CRM, and for the support department this would be a ticketing tool.

Lastly we added a few questions who were important to measure within our company. Because of our fast growth, we added ‘Workload’ as an extra topic.

* As we call them, since they focus on a certain feature (set) during one quarter

Tested and approved

Our very own Team Health Check topics were printed out on a card set, which we then distributed to all team leaders, encouraging them to do the exercise within their own teams.

To test the card set and support my colleagues in using them, I performed the session in a few teams (Marketing, Finance, …). Feedback was very positive. A few team leaders noticed that several team members told them more in this group session than during personal coaching. Probably because they had to focus on predetermined topics which are not always a topic during a one-to-one coaching.

Rules of the game

Performing one session takes about one hour and a half. That time gets shorter once the team has already done it once or twice. In that case, they are familiar with the topics and can give quicker answers building on the previous session.

To manage the session, I’ve created a very simple Excel file, which I show on screen, so everybody can follow where we are.

At the end of the exercise, we try to choose not more than one or two (small) actions in order to move towards a green light. And then move on.

Curious to do this test with your own team? Order your free set here!

Personal approach vs. online calculators or tools

I have also read some posts where the process is on an individual and online base, or where it automatically calculates trend lines, but I try to stay away from that. Although this costs me some time every quarter, doing this in person has a lot of value for the team members. and the discussion gives me an instant feeling about how things are going.

I can only encourage to try it. Bart.

Try it out in your own team!

Order your free Team Health Check card set : ORDER HERE


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