Health checks are a special form of feedback from colleagues in the team or company regarding how they are currently doing: mental, satisfaction with processes, tooling and goals.
What is a Team Health Check and why use it?
Health checks should normally be part of every retro. But in some situations it is useful to do additional health checks. This is the case, for example, if the frequency of the retros is not so often (> 2 weeks) or retros are not made regularly. Another reason for special health checks may be that team members in the larger video call session are shy and frightened of their personal feedback.
How to do it?
Every manager, team leader, agile master should do a short video call once a week with each team member. In a relaxed atmosphere for a short exchange. How are you doing? What was bothering or causing you problems at the job this week? Maybe I can help you? What did you enjoy most about your job this week? Tell something about your week so that your colleague can get to know your topics.
If you work geographically distributed these regular meetings are very important. If you are not working site-by-site in one office, these conversations do not happen by chance. They must be done explicit. They must become routine without becoming boring and redundant. This is not easy. Every manager has to find an authentic way and establish a good relationship to the employees.
Team Health Checks
A popular model for team health checks was developed by Spotify, the “Squad Health Check Model”. This model has two goals: What is the current situation and what is the trend. Thus this model is similar to some maturity models.
Who is the Health Check Model intended for? In the Health Check Model of a Squad (Spotify`s term for a small, interdisciplinary, self-organized development team) there are mainly two stakeholders:
- The Squad itself: By discussing the individual factors, the members of the squad can better understand what works and what doesn’t work for them. The wide range of questions helps them to better understand the current state of the team. They may be aware of the quality issues in the code, but they haven’t really thought about the value from the customer’s point of view or how quickly they can learn. It also highlights both the good things and the negative points.
- People who support the squad: Managers, coaches, other team leaders who work outside the team get an overview of all the things that work and those that don’t work. Additionally, they can see patterns between different squads. If you have dozens of teams and can’t talk to everyone about everything, such a summary can help you to find out what’s really important.
Being aware of the problem is the first step to solving a problem. This type of visualization makes it much harder to ignore a problem.
Health checks in the very small Mood Check format “How are you doing: good, ok, bad” are not ideal for obtaining detailed and regular feedback from the team. But: They are a good icebreaker for retro meeting.
An exemplary online tool for retros and health checks is TeamRetro. Out of the box, TeamRetro supports a range of health check models.
- Spotify Squad Health Check
- Team radar
- Team health check
- Remote team happiness
You can also create your own templates, depending on the context of your team. If you use the same template more than once, you can track the impact of changes and progress over time in a dashboard.
Atlassian Project Team Health Monitor
Atlassian has also thought about Team Health Checks. The results of their research are eight attributes that healthy and productive teams have in common and for which a regular check-up is therefore rewarding.