In this blog post, I want to share a powerful tool, leadership health check. This will help your management team to become stronger and reveal improvement opportunities for an active service leadership team to better empower the agile team you support.
First, let’s start from scratch.
In the agile coach’s toolbox, one of my favorite exercises is square health check (Chinese version:https://www.bobjiang.com/posts/blog/sqad_health_check_model.html）. This is a self-assessment seminar in the form of review. At the meeting, the team expresses their feelings on various topics, such as collaboration, value of delivery, influence, and getting support from the organization. The results will generate insights and improvements to the team and leadership. I like this tool because it’s a great tool to strengthen self-organization, organizational culture and continuous learning.
More than a year ago, one of spotify’s colleagues, Georgiana Laura levinta, and I set up a leadership health check for our cube (cube is a semi autonomous department of spotify, which consists of 4-8 teams and has a special group of leaders and managers)https://www.bobjiang.com/posts/blog/scaling-agile-spotify-with-tribes-squads-chapters-guilds.html） 。
Geo and I were inspired by square health check to use this approach to help tribe managers self assess their leadership in providing positive support to the squads within tribe and discuss how they can improve as a team to provide better support.
Since then, I have worked with casumo clients to adopt this approach based on their background, culture and beliefs. We have practiced several times in the company’s leadership team and at the tribe level (semi autonomous department), and achieved great success and value. I believe that both team health check and leadership health check are very powerful; therefore, I would like to recommend them to the wider agile community, hoping that more organizations will find their value, or at least be inspired by them, and then make a completely different attempt.
If you do not want to know the origin and thinking behind the team and leadership health check, but just download the seminar materials, please pay attention to the official account reply to the “check list” to get the download address.
Team health checklist
(suard health check of spotify)
Spotify’s first version of suard health check looks very different from today’s version. It raises questions like “do you have a product owner? Do you have the support of an agile coach? Is “and” easy to publish? “Questions like that. As these organizational pain points (e.g., not all teams have PO) fade away, the survey has evolved to focus more on self-organization, teamwork, sustainable processes, and task clarity (see example on the right).
This form is spreading rapidly within spotify, and more and more teams and tribes are using it. Today, this has become a deeply rooted habit in many organizations. The team checks twice to four times a year. When each tribe adopts it according to its background and needs and shares its version with other tribes, the tool is constantly developed.
The Team Health Check
Team health check I share in this blog post is inspired by spotify’s Square health check. Through cooperation with other customers, I have improved it to make it more universal.
Now, the elaboration of various topics and comments attempts to embed the thinking and research of some works, such as Christopher avery’s team work is an individual skill, J. Richard Hackman’s leading teams, Daniel h. Pink’s drive, Stanley McChrystal’s team of teams, Patrick Lencioni’s Google’s Aristotle project and the Five Dysfunctions of a team There are many other books and Research on agile leaders’ ideas.
The team health check contains about 12 topics. For each theme, there are green and red descriptions. Green indicates observable health or positive cases. Red indicates unhealthy or bad cases. Here are two examples:
1) Team self organization
Green: I think we can manipulate and shape our own plans and destiny. Together, we decide how we work.
Red: someone is always in charge. I don’t know what we can and can’t decide.
Green: we give positive praise, but also give constructive feedback on each other’s inefficient behavior.
Red: we seldom praise each other, and we don’t give feedback to each other for irresponsible behavior or violation of our work agreement.
Adopt team health check
If you want to practice “team health check” with your team in your organization, I strongly recommend that you modify and adopt it based on the culture and background of your organization, and decide which template can be retained. I believe this is a great leadership practice. The challenge of defining themes and statements forces you as leaders to focus on the culture you aspire to build, the behaviors you want to see, and the members you expect to reach a consensus with leadership and organizational expectations.
Since the team may have health checks several times a year, to some extent, this can be the goal education that you pursue, and in a sense, it becomes the right list of the team. If they get problems every time and feel capable of manipulating and shaping plans and destiny every time, they will find the way they should. If asked if they have time to think and try ahead, it means they should be allowed enough time to do so. wait.
Based on my experience, I conduct team health check with my team twice or four times a year, and you will gain:
Better understand the level, status, challenges and opportunities of the team.
Trigger a qualitative discussion of each team’s current health status.
As with good reviews, generate improvements within the team.
Reveal to the leadership how they need to improve their service-oriented leadership, or how they can provide additional support to the enabling team
Communicating expectations for desired behaviors (e.g., collaboration, feedback, integrity) should also allow teams to express expectations for Organizational Leadership (support, trust, participation, connection to goals, and reasons).
It’s not a tool for comparison!
If you as a team member are afraid or notice that the results of self-assessment have been used by management to compare how “good” different teams are – then don’t share your results outside the team! As with any other form of retrospective, use it as a tool for generating insights, discussions, and actions. Share actions, results, not discussions.
If you are a manager and want to use the tool to evaluate the team’s “agile maturity”, performance or compare between teams – don’t do that! The answer will be very subjective, reflecting the specific situation and challenges of each team. If you want to evaluate, the results of practice can show how well you are supporting the team. It’s not a measure of how well the team performs, it’s a measure of how well you perform as a leader.
Leadership health checklist
The purpose of the leadership health check is the same as that of the team health check. It can self assess how our team feels in various areas and reveal how we can improve the value of collaboration and delivery. In this case, the team is the manager and leader of an agile team. The value we provide is the support we provide to the team and the work we do to help the team provide value to users and stakeholders.
The origin of leadership health check
(the result of leader’s health check exercise voting)
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, the first edition of the leadership health check was developed with Georgiana Laura levinta, a colleague at spotify. Georgiana also wrote an internal spotify blog post about the tool’s creation. Hopefully one day it will be posted on spotify’s official blog.
The version I’m sharing here is the one I’m running with the current client, casumo. It has led to a lot of discussion about leadership in an agile environment. It brings together the leadership team, motivates action and change to further improve the way they support the team.
Practice has proved that it is effective for the company’s leadership team (composed of CEO, CTO, CFO, etc.) and department level leaders. The seminar generated insights and guided the leadership team to determine the next work focus.
Designed for management / leadership teams
The leadership health check recognizes that a leader / manager team is different from a team that is tightly integrated to deliver a product or service. They may not collaborate to achieve short-term goals, but what unites them is the services they provide: providing support, guidance, guidance and an environment in which teams can thrive and stand out. To do this effectively, they need to see themselves as a team, aligned with values and long-term strategy, and reach a consensus on how to make decisions and what constitutes good leadership.
Some of these topics are the same as those of the team health check, such as trust and security, reliability, continuous improvement, and feedback. Others are unique to leadership health check, such as culture and values, vision and direction, service-oriented leadership and transparency.
Adopt leadership health check
My suggestion is the same as that of team health check. If you want to use “leader health check” in a department or company, I strongly recommend that it be used to check leadership level based on culture and trust.
Reaching agreement on a set of topics and statements is a great exercise, and is likely to lead to a lot of difficult and healthy discussions, forcing you to adjust and decide what’s important to you. For example, do you think of yourself as a team or a loose group of people? Do you believe in inclusive decisions or clear decisions? Your position on these issues should be reflected in the health examination.
Practice community health examination
It’s a surprise reward. When I work with clients, I come into contact with high-end talent. Talent in their organization is a group of people with the same beliefs and abilities, sometimes called communities of practice. In spotify, this is the chapter. We have developed health checks whose themes are tailored to the needs of members of the community of practice. They don’t usually work towards a common goal as teams do, but they do share other needs, such as knowledge sharing, help, alignment with certain long-term strategies, and so on.
Topics and statements have not been retouched, or improved many times, if any. However, if necessary, we can pay attention to the reply of the official account to the check list. Maybe you can use it as a source of inspiration.
I lead the team and leadership review in almost the same way. I usually plan a 90 minute meeting and make the following arrangements for the seminar:
1) Welcome – 5 minutes
A description of the purpose and structure of the seminar. I emphasize that the way of self-evaluation is a form of review, not a way to measure our quality as a team from any objective perspective.
2) Self assessment – 15 minutes
For each topic, I ask someone to read the topic aloud, the green and red statements. Then everyone votes. If you think green is the best way to show the development of things, please vote green. If you think red is the best way to show the development of things, please choose red. If you see both green and red examples, or think things are neither green nor red, vote yellow. Collect the votes, then go to the next topic, ask the next person to read aloud, and so on.
Note: when doing this together, I ask people to vote with green, yellow or red post it notes. Then I collect the notepaper and put it on the whiteboard. While working with remote members to facilitate the seminar, I prepared a Google Spreadsheet and asked the participants to vote on the document. In the following screen shot, you can see the votes of the team members as well as the comments captured in the discussion after step 4.
3) Reflection – 5 minutes
I ask you to comment briefly and reflect on the overall results. -Five minutes
4) Explore improvement measures – 45 minutes
Find and discuss the most interesting results. It may be the red topic with the largest number of votes, or the green, yellow and red topics with the widest range of votes. We have different views on this topic. I try to facilitate the discussion in order to make recommendations and decisions and take action.
5) Summary – 5 minutes
Repeat the agreed action points and responsible persons.
Make sure someone is assigned to record and share the results.
6) End – 5 minutes
Close the session. I usually ask everyone to comment briefly, “what do you think is the most important discussion or action for our team? “
**Q: in order to make the answer more comprehensive, does this exercise require trust among team members? **
Yes. But I also believe that doing this kind of practice can build trust. As team members realize that this is not a tool to evaluate them, but a tool to help them become more powerful themselves, the answer will be more honest. As a result, the discussion that followed produced deeper insights and more influential actions and changes.
Q: isn’t it valuable for a department to summarize the team health check results of several teams?
of course. If you, as a leader, want to look at patterns and trends to see where you should focus, it’s very valuable. The figure above shows a real example in spotify. For example, this helps leaders and teams prioritize their work to make it easy to publish. Team 4 was set up two weeks ago, so their self-awareness may be really low because everything looks green. Team 2 seems to be struggling a lot. As a result, the two teams received additional support and care.
Q: but I really want to use it to compare the performance of different teams. Why can’t I?
No, you can’t! There are several reasons. It’s a self-assessment, so the results will reveal the team’s professionalism from the individual perspective of the team. One team may feel that they are moving very fast, while the other team is very slow, even though they are releasing at a weekly pace. The backgrounds and challenges of each team vary greatly. One team may post daily updates to a website, while another struggles with many external dependencies. One team can be big and the other small. wait.
If you use it for comparison, and perhaps even for deciding which team to reward, the team will know that and start calculating the results with dishonest answers to “look good.”.
Q: should the results be shared?
I believe in transparency, so if you ask me – yes. However, my suggestion is to just share the results and agree on actions, not who will vote on each subject. Transparency and shared results build trust, enable cross team learning, and foster a sense of responsibility.
Q: I think some questions are too vague and open. What will happen if they are divided into more questions and narrowed down?
Certainly. If these questions don’t lead to a good discussion and provide useful insights, try other questions. But my suggestion is not to ask more than 12 to 14 questions. If you add one, maybe you should delete the other. Q: to save time, should I send questions and ask people to vote before the seminar?
Maybe it’s a large group, for example, more than 10 people. Otherwise, I think it will be more fun and participation to do it together in the seminar.
Pay attention to the official account and view the pictures. Reply to “checklist” for download address. Don’t hesitate to copy and adopt them based on your context and then use them with your team.
Reviser: Jiang Xinbao