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.

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People

Your team

Prep time

5 min

Time

1 hr

Difficulty

Moderate

Download

Health Monitor template

Running the workshop

Health Monitor workshops and checkpoints are a time to reflect and be 100% present. Laptops closed, phones off, etc. If you treat it as a "yep, checked that box!" activity, your time is better spent elsewhere.

MATERIALS

PREP

Draw the Health Monitor grid on a whiteboard, or print and distribute it as a handout. Select one member of the team to play the role of facilitator, or ask someone external to the team to step in and facilitate.

STEP 1

Set the stage (10 mins)

WELCOME

First, thank your team for making the time to attend the session. Remind them that you're running the Health Monitor to introspectively assess how well your team is working together. You'll be brutally honest and get into the warts and all to understand what's not working well. It's not all doom and gloom, though: you'll uncover good things too, and exchange some high-fives. You'll walk away knowing where your weak spots are, armed with ideas to help build those muscles.

You'll be assessing your health strictly within the context of the project you're working on. For the next hour, there are no right or wrong answers, and everyone's opinion is equal.

INTRODUCE THE 8 ATTRIBUTES OF HEALTHY PROJECT TEAMS

On a screen, display the eight attributes of healthy project teams and give your team a chance to read through them. (The headings are similar to those for leadership teams, but the definitions are customized for project teams.) Clarify any urgent questions, but don't get too entrenched as you'll want to jump into the activity and discussion as soon as possible.

Download PDF Go to Confluence blueprint

Pro tip

On a large screen, display the 8 attributes of healthy project teams using the Health Monitor PDF or Confluence Blueprint.

STEP 2

Small group assessments (20 min)

Split the team into two groups – ideally, groups of mixed skills, experience and behavior to encourage divergent thought. Put the groups at different ends of the room. Note that if your team is larger than eight people, you might need to split into three groups.

Have the groups consider the eight attributes of healthy project teams and rate the team as red, yellow, or green on each one, using the Health Monitor grid (download it or get the Confluence Blueprint) to note the ratings. How you think about red, yellow and green can be completely arbitrary. Use your intuition and don't worry about criteria for each color – that only distracts from the discussion, and risks turning this into a check-the-box exercise.

Refer to each attribute's definition to guide your assessments. With each rating, note one observation that led the group to pick that colour.

Resist the temptation to solve problems right now, and just focus on observations. Make sure each person has a voice and a chance to contribute to their group's ratings individually before moving into whole-team discussions.

Here's how a Health Monitor grid might look like over time:

 

Pro tip

If your team members tend to "settle" or call something "ok" 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. 

Got questions?

You're not alone. Here's everything you wanted to know about the Health Monitor (but were afraid to ask). 

STEP 3

Full-team discussion (20 min)

Bring the full team back together, and get each group's ratings side by side, or merge them onto a single grid, if that's easier. Have the full team stand around the wall in a semi-circle. Go through each attribute one by one, and ask the groups to explain their red/yellow/green rating.

If, for example, one group rated "Balanced team" as red, and the other group rated it green, dig deeper and try to reach a consensus. The facilitator's job is to (gently, respectfully) challenge team members and tease out any differences between ratings. Ask "Why?" and "How?" a lot.

Again, don't try to solve problems yet.

Pro tip

If you're struggling to reach consensus on a rating, refer back to that attribute's definition and the questions associated with it. If there's still controversy, choose the lower rating – better to err on the side of caution than assume things are better than they really are.

STEP 4

Focus areas, actions, and owners (10 min)

Ask your team to collectively come up with two attributes you want to focus on. Yes: just two. Ask your team to call out ways to move the reds or yellows toward green. Make sure they are actionable, specific, and measurable.

Add action items to your meeting notes with clear due dates, and assign them to team members.

Be sure to capture your Health Monitor grid on paper or a Confluence page.

CHECKPOINTS

Finally, agree on a cadence for checkpoints. As your project moves along, it's easy to get lost in the daily grind. We forget that each team member's experience is a little different, as are their needs. That's why checkpoints are so important: the health of the project team is indicative of your chances for success.

For longer projects, we also recommend scheduling another full Health Monitor workshop in two to three months or so.

Pro tip

Stumped? No worries. Check out the section at the bottom of this page for plays designed to help you build muscle in your weak areas.

FOLLOW-UPS

Set a regular cadence for Health Monitor checkpoints. Are your reds and yellows moving toward green? Have any of your greens slipped into the red? Regular checks help keep momentum high and catch problem areas before they become destructive.

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!

Pro tip

To keep it lively, call out each attribute and have everyone give a thumbs up for green, sideways for yellow or down for red. The whole team give their rating on the count of three (sorta Rock, Paper, Scissors-style).

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

Yellow or red? Don't panic.

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.

Full-time owner

Managed dependencies

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