Checked in on your team lately? Team health is massively important in the creative, digital and tech space, and an area we continuously strive to improve. Here’s how we built a software tool to ensure our teams stay on top form!
As a busy software agency, we wanted to find a solution that allowed us to quickly assess how everyone felt about their experience on a current software or creative project – focusing on the elements everyone cares about that ultimately help move the needle.
If it’s good enough for Spotify…
Based on proven success over many years, the Squad Health Check Model (SHC) by Spotify labs is an exercise used to measure, unsurprisingly, squad health on a given project. A team can share their feelings and perceptions quickly and easily using simple traffic light indicators.
For the squad, it builds awareness and a balanced perspective of a project and, for Scrum Masters, it can help identify how best to support the team.
We decided to invest in our team and use the Spotify SHC model to build our own app to gather faster feedback and improve our ability to support our engineers, designers, QA testers and developers in delivering excellent client outcomes.
How can you improve on a retro?
Of course, we already manage feedback on our team’s experiences on projects in a hybrid way – using the Scrum methodology and unlimited, informal leadership support. But we can go further.
When using a typical Scrum ‘retro’ format to periodically discuss our performance (typically, what should we start, stop and keep doing), tech teams often focus on the project and its delivery.
Whilst this is important, the team will benefit significantly from reviewing broader issues that affect stability and productivity. What’s missing?
The framework to widen our assessment alongside the routine retros that measure squad health in an impactful way.
How does the SHC app work in practice?
The SHC app allows Scrum Masters to establish what teams think about 11 key metrics not captured during a typical sprint retro. For instance, how much fun is the team having on the project? Do team members feel like pawns or players? Are they engaged and aligned with the project’s mission? Though these metrics are more abstract than the quality of our Agile delivery approach, they are all important.
As a team member, having a voice concerning the project and its direction is as essential as the development work itself. Equally, as a Scrum Master, it is vital to understand pain points within the team and undertake corrective actions to support our continuous improvement.
Voting to improve team satisfaction, wellbeing and productivity
SHC uses structured voting with predefined options to capture the data in a way that wouldn’t be possible with free-form, ephemeral feedback.
Each health check session consists of 11 elements, with a vote for sentiment and a vote for the trend of that metric. The options available are Good, Neutral and Bad for sentiment; and Improving, Stable and Declining for trend.
Votes are anonymous, allowing team members to express their opinions without undue influence. This feature helps people either new to the project or company (or even the industry itself), where perhaps their knowledge base or experience can prevent them from voicing concerns openly.
Once all votes are in and feedback reviewed (via a simple analytics feature in the app), there is an opportunity for team discussion, with actions agreed upon based on identified topics.
Teams can also see relevant past actions from previous project voting by other tech teams within the agency. These are presented in a list ranked by their measured impact on that category, providing organisational learning to aid the consistent implementation of best practices across all of our client delivery.
Post-session, the Scrum Master can also share an anonymous feedback form with each team member who can raise points directly without discussing them in front of the wider team.
Designing a fun SHC app
The brief was to create a user experience that would simply capture all required inputs and present the results in an easily understood format.
Gamification is a particular passion among our talented design team, who carefully considered the tech team end users and created a fun, engaging UI/UX that would appeal to those in the tech industry. We may be biased, but our designers hit it out of the park!
Next on the SHC roadmap is the ability for squads to choose actions to improve scores.
During the post-voting discussion, teams will view a list of actions ranked by their measured impact – i.e. target those priority actions with a proven benefit to the team or project. They may have originated from the current project under the SHC spotlight, or from another across the business.
Making these actions available to all teams, regardless of origin, will enable organisational learning and the adoption of best practices on each project.
What are the gains?
The benefits offered by the SHC are substantial, but here are the main ones we felt were important for our teams and clients:
Improved Communication: Squad health measurements encourage open and honest communication among team members. This leads to better understanding of each team member’s perspectives, challenges, and suggestions, fostering a more transparent and collaborative environment.
Increased Productivity: By assessing team health, you can identify productivity blockers and work on removing them. This could include addressing time-wasting processes, improving tools and resources, and optimising workflows.
Better Team Morale: Positive feedback and acknowledgment of achievements through squad health measurements can boost team morale. Feeling valued and recognised for their contributions motivates team members to perform better.
Enhanced Innovation: A healthier team environment fosters creativity and innovation. Team members feel more comfortable sharing new ideas, experimenting with different approaches, and driving continuous innovation.
Cross-Functional Collaboration: By measuring squad health, you can encourage collaboration across different roles and functions within the team. This helps break down silos and promotes a more holistic approach to problem-solving.
Long-Term Sustainability: By identifying and addressing potential burnout indicators and team stressors, squad health measurements contribute to the long-term sustainability of the team’s productivity and wellbeing.
How can my business use a Squad Health Check?
Well, you don’t need to build an app! We did this because it’s our business to make processes efficient (and to be honest, it helps to have a fantastic development team!).
The practice of running a squad health check is easily achieved using more manual methods – for example an easily customisable Google Form, or even a simple voting box using cards to record scores. The model can be adapted to your own business by replacing metrics with those more tailored to the nature of your team and work.
The important thing is to take the team temperature regularly in an anonymous ‘safe place’ and ensure actions are addressed based on their importance and positive impact!
We’ll report back in the future on the launch of our app, and we hope this article inspires other businesses to take a broader view on how their team can deliver even more outstanding work.