Managers and leads must pay close attention to team health and happiness over time when leading Agile tech teams. Otherwise, employee morale and satisfaction will plummet, leading to lower product quality and decreased customer satisfaction.
Team health checks are one of the best ways to measure and track team health and happiness. Read on to learn more about them and why you should conduct them. We've also provided a team health checklist template of questions.
What Is a Team Health Check?
Also known as a maturity model, a team health check is an Agile tool for evaluating and tracking team satisfaction and happiness over time. Managers regularly use team health checks to drive continuous improvement.
Like most Agile tools and processes, team health checks are self-directed — team members can use simple emoticon responses to talk about their feelings honestly. Managers and team leads can use these visual results to facilitate discussions, create growth strategies, and address blockages. They can also track changes over time to spot new areas for improvement.
Why Should You Do Team Health Checks?
Team health checks can make or break your team and your bottom line. If you don't perform regular team health checks, your team may become dissatisfied, unmotivated, and inefficient. They may also lose trust in one another, leading to disagreements and other barriers to success.
Other reasons for conducting regular team health checks include:
- Creating a culture of constructive feedback and criticism: Team members can't improve if they don't know where they went wrong.
- Increasing psychological safety: Psychologically secure teams can take on risks without feeling embarrassed or insecure. Specifically, they can make mistakes, raise concerns, and innovate without fear.
- Spotting and fixing issues quickly: A healthy team should also be able to identify and fix problems before they turn into crises.
- Promoting better relationships among team members: Team members should be able to share their feelings frequently and easily, without feeling embarrassed.
How To Do a Team Health Check
There are many ways to run team health checks. Depending on your budget, preferences, and needs, you can use Niko-Niko calendars, the Gallup Q12 Employee Engagement Survey, Atlassian's Team Health Monitor, Spotify Squad Health Check, TeamMood, or Comparative Agility to run health checks.
A Niko-Niko calendar is a calendar for tracking team moods.
It has columns with work days and rows with team members' names. At the end of each day, everyone meets in front of the calendar and uses emojis or color stickers to indicate their feelings.
Niko-Niko calendars can be offline or digital. Digital Niko-Niko calendars often provide dashboards and analytics for understanding the relationship between team mood and productivity.
The Gallup Q12 Employee Engagement Survey
The Gallup Q12 Employee Engagement Survey is a survey platform for evaluating employee engagement. Every item on the Gallup Q12 has been thoroughly tested and validated as an accurate measure of employee engagement.
This tool consists of 12 core questions. They ask whether an employee:
- Knows what is expected of them at work
- Has the equipment and materials they need to do their work
- Has the opportunity to do what they do best every day
- Has received praise or recognition in the last seven days
- Feels valued and cared for by teammates and supervisors
- Feels there is someone at work who encourages their development
- Feels that their opinions count
- Feels that the purpose or mission of their company makes them feel their job is important
- Their fellow employees or associates are committed to doing quality work
- Has a best friend at work
- Recalls someone at work talking to them about their progress in the last six months
- Has had opportunities to learn and grow this past year
The survey also contains 150 validated and tested questions that supplement the 12 core questions. You can access them by getting an ongoing subscription to Gallup Access. The 150 supplemental questions cover various topics, including employee experience, leadership, inclusion, culture, and remote work.
Follow these steps to use the Gallup Q12 Employee Engagement Survey:
- Get the GallupQ12 platform.
- Administer the survey through Gallup's online platform, Gallup Access. Remember to send the survey at a time when most people can complete it.
- Use Gallup's expertise and research to uncover insights on employee engagement. Gallup Access will provide benchmark comparisons that help you understand your scores. It will also show you how you stack up against competitors.
Atlassian Team Health Monitor
Atlassian's Team Health Monitor is a browser tool for assessing the health of three types of teams:
- Project teams: These teams deliver outcomes, such as projects for businesses and new product features.
- Leadership teams: These teams consist of C-suite executives and other leaders.
- Service teams: Service teams have regular quotas, queue-based work, and strive for quality responses and high volume.
To use the Atlassian Team Health Monitor, simply send team members a link to the test. After picking a team type, employees will be asked to rate eight attributes, including balanced team, team cohesiveness, and shared understanding. They can use the following icons to indicate ratings:
- Green thumbs-up icon — We're strong
- Yellow reversed thumbs-up icon — We're alright but a little shaky
- Red thumbs-down icon — We're struggling
Spotify Squad Health Check
Another great way to check your team's health is the Spotify Squad Health Check. It involves 11 areas of inquiry and three color ratings.
The Spotify Squad Health Check is best suited for collecting data from multiple teams from one company or department. Here's an example of a health check output:
As in Atlassian Team Health Monitor, green is good, yellow indicates some problems, and red indicates many problems. The arrows denote whether a trend is improving or getting worse.
As you can see, each team evaluates its situation differently. Squad 4 seems to be doing exceptionally well, while Squad 2 seems to be struggling quite a bit. Besides comparing teams, you can also scan the overall picture to see whether teams are improving as a whole.
Here's how to conduct a Spotify Squad Health Check:
- Run workshops with teams to assess their current situation. Ask them about their views on different indicators, such as fun, quality, delivery value, and speed.
- Create a visual summary of the results. Summarize your findings in a chart as above.
- Use the data to help the team improve. Focus on indicators that are regularly rated negatively and create a game plan for improvement.
TeamMood is a user-friendly team health check software. It uses Slack, Microsoft Teams, WebEx, and email prompts to get daily moods from employees in under two minutes. You can then track your team's feelings and resolve problems before they become crises.
Other features include:
- Optional written feedback: Writing a few sentences daily can be draining and boring for your people. With TeamMood, they can just use an emoji to respond to prompts. They can still write comments if they want to, however.
- Focus on anonymity: It's difficult to get honest feedback without anonymity. Fortunately, TeamMood feedback is 100% anonymous, so you can rest assured responses are honest.
- Streamlined analytics: TeamMood provides powerful analytics for understanding your team's needs, such as:
- Feedback history: This feature offers an overview of your team's moods. It even has a special view based on Agile retrospective practices and a Niko-Niko calendar. Use these tools to track moods and see how wellness changes over time.
- A reporting dashboard: This dashboard displays various important insights, including:
- Best and worst day
- Mood average variation
- A word cloud of teammates' most frequently used words
- The ability to manage multiple teams: You can create as many teams as needed and track their feedback and moods easily.
- Leadership guides: TeamMood also provides leadership tips and guides.
- Integrations: Like most modern tools, TeamMood seamlessly integrates with the rest of your stack, including Microsoft Teams, Slack, and more.
Comparative Agility is the world's largest continuous improvement and agility assessment platform. It provides a clear picture of how your people are performing and what you can do to improve wellness.
Here's how Comparative Agility works:
- Collect data: First, use the platform to collect employee data at the learn, organizational, and program levels.
- Find the narrative: Then, analyze the data. Who's succeeding? Who's struggling? What are the general trends? What barriers are people facing?
- Understand the context: Next, conduct sessions with groups to understand the contexts of their successes and failures. Be sure to ask the following questions:
- What impediments or barriers do we see?
- What is the impact of these barriers?
- What can we do to address these barriers?
- Conduct one-on-one interviews: To gain further insight, hold one-on-one interviews with select group members in a confidential environment. Focus on asking open-ended questions and listening to gain a better understanding of unspoken issues.
- Pick objective metrics: Once you have a solid understanding of your team's well-being, gather objective, context-specific metrics to complement your analysis. These metrics should focus on trends over time. Examples include defects in production and average lead time to recovery.
- Take action: After using Comparative Agility to derive insights, identify the top items you can address. Then, tell the team what you'll be doing. Repeat the process every three to six months to drive improvement and gain credibility.
Comparative Agility boasts multiple state-of-the-art features for Agile teams, including:
- Comparative Agile: Comparative Agility offers access to the world's largest Agile assessment database. Use it to reliably and quickly implement a data-driven continuous improvement (CI) culture. You can also benchmark your efforts against your own company, your industry, and the Comparative Agile (CA) World Index.
- Comparative DevOps: This program also offers Comparative DevOps, an advanced DevOps assessment tool that helps you understand capabilities across the whole software development lifecycle (SDLC) and quickly spot opportunities for improvement.
- Comparative Kanban: If you use Kanban, use Comparative Kanban to identify where you can improve and amplify your workflows. It focuses on the aspects that make Kanban successful: implementing feedback loops, making explicit policies, reducing work in progress, and actively managing flow.
- Psychological Safety: This tool offers change leaders the insights they need to create an environment for knowledge workers.
- Comparative Inspired Teams: This framework combines Agile development principles with 20 years of research on Team Emotional Intelligence (TEI). Use it to build a high-performance culture, innovate, and collaborate effectively.
Checklist Template for Teams and Managers
Agile leads and managers use various indicators to pinpoint the current health of the team. Here's a sample checklist of team health check indicators. Feel free to use these samples or create your own.
We can define and measure our impact on the business and users.
Our processes are effective and aligned. We have reliable metrics for measuring our goals.
We use our time wisely every day, week, and month.
Metrics and Value
We understand our unique value proposition. We have defined success and identified relevant key performance indicators and metrics.
Our skill set is appropriate for the project. There are clear responsibilities and duties for each team member.
Decisions are made by the right people with the appropriate degree of urgency. Decisions are communicated effectively beforehand.
Team members communicate clearly to share knowledge, insights, and learning to lessen complexity, risk, effort, resources, and other barriers.
We have ample opportunities for refining and expanding our skill set. We learn and implement lessons during every iteration.
We get to manage our own workload and workflow. We can voice opinions and suggestions without being criticized.
Every team member exhibits clear ownership and is accountable for their actions. The team has a dedicated product owner who is accountable for the team's results and encourages the team to create innovative solutions to problems.
Everyone supports the project, understands their duties, and believes they can add value.
We love our work and working in an Agile team. Our work pushes us to improve and learn new skills.
Leading strong Agile tech teams can be a challenge. Besides holding meetings and coaching team members, leaders and managers must conduct regular team health checks to evaluate team members' well-being and mood. Without a clear understanding of team members' feelings, leaders will find it difficult to move forward. Teams will also face communication and collaboration challenges, leading to mediocre products, lower customer satisfaction, and lower revenues.