Project Team Health Monitor
The project team Health Monitor helps your project – and more importantly, your project team – function as effectively as possible so you can focus on nailing your deliverables.
USE THIS HEALTH MONITOR TO...
- Understand your strengths and weaknesses as a project team.
- Identify plays your team should run (and why).
AND I NEED THIS... WHY?
You start projects with the best of intentions, and when everything goes according to plan, life is beautiful. You've got people who can do great work. Your team culture is collaborative, high-energy, and focused on continuous improvement. And as a result, you're good at Getting $#!τ Done™.
But we've all worked on project teams that don't function like they should. And that's a bummer. We want each member of our project team to feel both full of purpose and unimpeded so they can do the best work of their lives, every single day. That's where the project team Health Monitor comes in.
Over the years, we've observed eight attributes common amongst healthy project teams. This Health Monitor is a chance for your team to get a reading on each of them – to check your vitals, if you will. From there, you can run plays that change the way you work so you're building muscle in your weak areas, and follow up with quick checkpoints to track your progress.
WHO SHOULD BE INVOLVED
Bring the core project team into the room: the project's owner, approver, and everyone executing the day-to-day work to make it happen. Any external stakeholder or others you're keeping informed about the project should sit this one out – it's a session by the team, for the team.
HEALTH MONITOR AT-A-GLANCE
- With your team, read the definition of each attribute (displayed below) of healthy, high-performing teams out loud. On the count of three have each person rate how they feel the team is doing compared to each definition (thumbs-up/green, thumbs-sideways/yellow, thumbs-down/red). Record the results of each attribute team rating on a Health Monitor grid.
- Choose one or two of the attributes rated yellow or red. Select plays that will strengthen these areas.
- Schedule your next Health Monitor checkpoint (we recommend monthly).
PREPARATION - What you need to complete a Health Monitor
Get a Health Monitor grid
A Health Monitor grid is where you record the team ratings for each attribute. It is best to keep a reference of past Health Monitor ratings so you can see how results change over time. You can draw the grid on a whiteboard, download a PDF, or set it up as a Confluence page using our blueprint. View example of a completed Health Monitor grid.
Are you facilitating the session?
Team health assessment (10-40 min)
Read the name and definition of the first attribute out loud to the group.
Thumbs up / green: "We're strong here"
Thumbs sideways / yellow: “We're ok... but a little shaky"
Thumbs down / red: "We're not healthy"
Repeat for each attribute.
There is one lead who is accountable for the result of this project. This needs to be someone whose time is at least 80% dedicated to it, and who can champion the mission inside and outside of the team.
Roles and responsibilities are clear and agreed upon. The project has people with the right blend of skill set. Acknowledge that team members can change by stage.
The team has a common understanding of why they're here, the problem/need, are convinced about the idea, confident they have what they need, and trust each other.
It's clear what success means from a business and user's perspective, and there is a unique value proposition in place for the target users and to the business. Success is defined, with a goal, and how it will be measured.
Some sort of demonstration has been created and tested, that demonstrates why this problem needs to be solved, and demonstrates its value.
The project is summarized in a one-pager and shared with anyone so that they understand the purpose of the project, and its value.
Clear understanding of complexity, infrastructure involved, risks, resources, effort, and timeline. Clear understanding of who we depend on, and who depends on us.
The team is making incremental progress by shipping concrete iterations to stakeholders (and even better to production), learning along the way, and implementing lessons learned, resulting in greater success.
Note how many reds, yellows, and greens there are. Then decide on a rating and record it on your Health Monitor grid. Keep the discussion brief and don't try to solve problems yet. Just understand why everyone chose the rating they did.
Over time, your Health Monitor grid might look something like this:
Next steps: choose plays to strengthen yellow and red areas
Here are a few suggested plays for improving in each area. Don't treat these as prescriptions! You know your team better than anyone, so check them out, explore other plays, and do what you think is best.
Schedule your next Health Monitor checkpoint
Health Monitors work best when done on a regular schedule; results will change as a projects change. Most teams schedule Health Monitor sessions on a monthly basis. If your team has a lot of red areas, consider a weekly or bi-weekly cadence until you're feeling a bit stronger. Weekly checkpoints can be super-quick (15-30 minutes) since there is already a baseline for your team to work from.
Tips for facilitating a Health Monitor
Setting the context
The purpose of the Health Monitor to assess how well your team is working together. Brutal honesty is the key here. It's not all doom and gloom, though: you'll uncover good things too, and exchange some high-fives…
You'll be assessing your health strictly within the context of the project you're working on. There are no right or wrong answers, and everyone's opinion is equal.
During the Health Monitor
If your team includes 8 or more people, you might want to divide into sub-groups and work through the initial ratings for each attribute. Then, come back together and converge on full-team ratings.
If you're new to the Health Monitor, it helps to display the names and descriptions of the eight attributes on a screen, so the team can see them easily.
How you think about red, yellow and green will be unique to your team. Use your intuition and don't worry about establishing standardized criteria for each color – that only distracts from the discussion.
Make sure each person has a voice and a chance to contribute to their group's ratings individually before moving into whole-team discussions.
If your team members tend to "settle" or call something "okay” when it really isn't, start with red as the default rating for all attributes, and make groups justify their way to a green rating.
Resist the temptation to solve problems, and just focus on observations.
Some teams incorporate checkpoints into an existing team ritual, like a weekly team meeting. Other teams periodically replace rituals like sprint retrospectives or stand-ups with a checkpoint. But you can schedule the checkpoints separately, if need be.
For the checkpoint, pull up your Health Monitor grid. Have the full team assess how they're doing on each attribute using the same red/yellow/green ratings.
Pay special attention to the attributes you chose to focus on during the full Health Monitor session. When one goes green, choose a new focus and look for plays that will help. Remember: the plays are different ways of going about your daily work, which means you can run them even if you aren't struggling. Preventative care works for teams just like it works for our bodies!
Not so sure about all this?
No worries. We answered users' most common questions about the Health Monitor in this handy-dandy blog post.Read it now