anton niklasson

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Measurable Teams

During the last 12 months I’ve been a part of a rather large software development team. There is always a discussion going on. Someone is feeling frustrated, someone else just got a great idea and wants to share. A third person is not comfortable with our static code analysis configuration.

Since joining the team I have spent some time trying make us the best team possible. And there is always something to work on. Whether it be how we onboard a new member, how we release code or how developers and UX designers work together.

Being part of a team is not always easy — there is a lot of communication involved, and having great communication is a huge success factor for us. We need to make sure everyone stays productive and is working on the right thing. But what is even more important for the teams long-term success and is that we communicate how we feel.

Sometimes the task at hand is the most exciting, challenging and rewarding thing you have ever worked on. Sometimes it is the complete opposite. Everything sucks. But that is life. And life spills in to work sometimes.

My friend Henrik wrote about how he has been monitoring the teams well-being over time. How have you been feeling during the last week? How satisfied did you feel at work this week? These are the kinds of questions he asked us every single week for the last 8 months or so. Go read his post, that topic is super interesting. Data-driven retrospectives is a thing now.

I found Atlassian’s Team Health Monitor while planning for a retrospective a few weeks back. They have compiled their insights and shared knowledge about what a high-performing team is doing right into something actually tangible and actionable. I think the Health Monitor is great for us because it gives us a clearer picture of what is working well, and what areas to focus on going forward. It is different from what Henrik does, but it is related. The lack of well-defined long-term goals might be the cause of frustration and dissatisfaction within the team.

“Part cure, part preventative medicine, the Health Monitor is your team’s chance to listen to each other and take an honest look in the mirror. You’ll assess against eight attributes common among healthy teams, and walk away with a better understanding of your strengths (plus plans to address your weak spots).”

About two weeks ago we completed our first health checkup. We spent some time understanding the different attributes, what they mean to everyone and how we apply them to our daily work. It sparked some great conversations right away. We then proceeded to cast our votes and decided on a joint opinion on each of the eight attributes. Some of the attributes are closely related to each other, and some of them felt a bit off for our particular case. But it was a great start.

Yesterday I facilitated another retrospective focusing on one of the weak spots from that first monitor. Being able to introduce the why with a clear motivation and reference back to what we expressed two weeks back felt great. It makes it more relatable and I would assume each member feels a bit more ownership in the process. You do not have to facilitate the retrospectives in order to have a say in what they are about. Which I think is great.

Going forward I am definitely going to try and incorporate both Henrik’s excellent weekly questionnaire and the results from continuously running the Health Monitor every six weeks or so.

What gets measured gets managed.