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Team health monitor

Team health monitors is a technique to surface and visualise how team members feel about the "health" of their team and others they are dependent on. The aim is to focus attention and drive continuous improvement. As a complement to regular retrospectives, team health monitors provide a more quantified measure of team satisfaction which can be tracked over time to determine the effect of change experiments. We consider continuous improvement and regular retrospectives to be essential to well-functioning teams, and health monitors are a recommended tool to augment this.

Overview

A team health monitor is an exercise where team members vote for and agree on a "health" score for each of the indicators which are important to them. This helps them identify where to focus attention for continuous improvement experiments.

Here is an example output which shows how scores have changed over time:

Atlassian team health monitor example output

Atlassian team health monitor example output

Atlassian

atlassian.com

Who is this for?

This technique is useful for all teams to help them drive continuous improvement.

We recommend doing this exercise regularly, usually monthly or quarterly. Any more or less frequently tends to either cause fatigue from too much repetitive scoring or means the data is too old to drive useful action.

How do you do it?

The team health monitor concept was popularised by Spotify as their Squad Health Check. See Squad Health Check model visualizing what to improve, which describes the process informally as:

  1. Run workshops where members of a squad [team] discuss and assess their current situation based on a number of different perspectives (quality, fun, value, etc).
  2. Create a graphical summary of the result
  3. Use the data to help the squads improve

The set of indicators to use should be chosen as a whole team exercise and will vary between teams. It can be useful to start with (or at least draw inspiration from) the measures used in the original Spotify Squad Health Check (see facilitation guidance) or one of the three Atlassian flavours (project teams, service teams, leadership teams).

It's good to make sessions interactive, for example using a simple thumbs up or down to indicate good or bad or "sideways" for netural.

Atlassian scoring explained

Atlassian scoring explained

Atlassian

atlassian.com

As with any other blind voting technique (such as is used for planning poker) use any variation in scores to prompt discussion about the differences in perception. Don't ignore minority votes outliers may have important insight which may cause others to rethink their scores.

Here is an example output which visualises scores across teams, but you can instead plot the change of scores over time for a single team (known as "squads" at Spotify). You can see here that up and down trend arrows have been included to show whether the health is felt to be improving or getting worse.

Spotify squad health check

Spotify squad health check

Spotify

engineering.atspotify.com

Further reading:

Are there any gotchas?

  • As with any other sentiment-based measurement, it is essential that the team feels able to be honest in their assessment. They need to feel the process is for their benefit, rather than a tool for people outside the team to judge them. Any suggestion of incentivising or rewarding "good" scores or comparing scores between teams will undermine this and should be avoided.
  • The process can do more harm than good if the team is not able to drive improvement based on the outcomes. If the team identifies areas it is unhappy with, they must be empowered and supported in taking steps to improve the situation through continuous improvement experiments (see continuous improvement).