Jay Simons’ methods for evaluating and improving team health involves creating a proof of concept, a one-pager detailing the team’s mission, tracking and sharing project progress, determining an end goal, and having teams comprised of various skill sets. Below is further information on his eight traits to build healthy teams, and the six-step process that helps teams understand where they need improvement. Additionally, information silos, inclusion, and unhealthy meeting habits are three methods an organization can effectively measure team health, while some common components assessed in team health are mutual trust, shared goals, constructive feedback, building relationships, clear responsibilities, handling conflicts calmly, and measuring processes and outcomes.
- Jay Simons, CEO of Atlassian, assessed individual performance on a regular basis at his company, and noticed that previous high-performing employees were "delivering below-average results."
- He realized that there was a trend in Atlassian, which was employees who were rated high consecutively in past performance reviews and who were transferred to struggling teams became "underperformers themselves." That's when Simons and his colleagues realized that team health is important for an organization's growth.
- Simons and his colleagues compared and contrasted successful and unsuccessful teams to understand why the successful teams succeeded, and identified the deficiencies of the unsuccessful teams. Their research helped create a methodology for assessing, monitoring and improving team health. The method entails eight traits of successful teams and a six-step process that helps teams understand where they need improvement.
Simons' Eight Elements of Healthy Teams
- A proof of concept is needed for employees to understand why a project exists and why they need to work on it. Simons said successful product teams have an "end-to-end walk-through that proves why the problem needed to be solved, the best path forward and why it would work." While teams usually agree on the project's end goal, this trait allows each employee to have a different way of reaching the goal.
- Successful teams have a one-pager that explains the team's mission and how they would measure success. The one-pager is designed in a way that anyone can easily understand, and it can "be used to onboard others." Simons said, "For example, a helpful one-pager had at least the following: a charter, which spelled out the team’s mission, and a bulleted list of the goals the team is delivering, so that others could quickly understand the steps to success."
- Success teams have two important components to velocity, which Simons defines as "forward momentum." The key components is a technique "for tracking and sharing progress," and a schedule that delivers assignments "to stakeholders in an incremental way." Simon said, "Successful teams broke down their work into manageable chunks of two-week sprints, after which they shipped their work, reflected on their performance and shared results with the organization."
- Successful teams will have an individual who is accountable for each part of a project. Simons said "more individual accountability" he discovered in a team, the better they did "on the other success traits."
- Successful teams understand and agree on the value they are delivering, and what metrics they will use in order to know they are being successful.
- Successful teams trust each other, and understand and shared a collective goal. They have "a shared belief" about why they are completing a certain project and why it mattered.
- Successful teams have employees with various skill sets, talents, work experiences, and problem solving styles. Simons said, "Operating under the same rules, their differences lead to divergent and more creative thought. That’s when great things happen."
- Successful teams have a plan for managing their top dependencies. Simons said the best teams check in with each other, and have plans to mitigate externalities that impact their work.
Simons' Six Steps to Evaluating Team Health
- Simons and his colleagues used the eight traits to create a team health monitor with six steps for teams to understand how to be successful.
- The first step is to set the stage by conducting health monitors regularly. A health monitor takes an hour, which includes setting up, explaining through the assessment, reflecting on the results, and agreeing on solutions. Each health monitor requires post-it notes, a whiteboard, six to 10 participants, a grid listing the eight traits of successful teams, and a facilitator who will lead the session. The facilitator will provide rules such as everyone has to listen and their opinions are equal, there has to be an open and constructive dialogue, and problem-solving should be saved for the end of the session.
- The second step requires assessing "the vital signs." Teams of six to 10 are split into groups of two or three to balance the diverse viewpoints. The teams rate the overall group based on the eight traits "by placing a red, yellow or green post-it note by each trait. Red stands for bad, yellow stands for so-so and green stands for good." The teams will explain in one sentence why they selected that color.
- The third step is to discuss the ratings. Each team will explain why they rated an attribute a certain color, and the facilitator will help the entire group find a common consensus on "a single rating for each attribute."
- The fourth step is to agree on focus areas. The group will spend 20 minutes selecting about three items that are marked red or yellow that they can improve on. The facilitator will suggest ways the team can improve. Simons said the facilitator should "guide the conversation towards items that are actionable, specific and measurable, and create clear due dates and assignments for those items."
- The fifth step is to "find remedies." The health check highlighted deficiencies and issues, and the next step in the process is for teams to figure out specific remedies to tackle the issues.
- After the team has reached a consensus and understands what additional work needs to be done, the sixth step is for the team to return to the health monitor after about a month or a quarter. This will help everyone track the progress the team is making or talk about what is going wrong for the team.
Common Components Assessed in Team Health
- According to experts, mutual trust is commonly assessed in team health. Mutual trust means teammates feel safe and trust each other enough that they will feel free to ask questions, offer information, and try new skills without feeling embarrassed. Mutual trust within a professional setting encourages collaborative work within a team, and "ultimately leads to greater team health."
- Shared goals is also a common component that's assessed in team health. Shared goals mean teams are working towards a common vision that is "clearly articulated, understood, and supported by all members." Some experts said this component has multiple levels and "involves the team talking about what they actually 'see' as a group."
- "A culture of constructive criticism and feedback" is another common assessment of team health. An environment that embraces constructive criticism and feedback allows teammates to listen without immediately making judgments. It also creates "a culture where mistakes are viewed as opportunities to improve," which encourages team members to speak out about them and as a result, helps create "a good place for change."
- Another common component involves building better relationships among teammates. When team members are comfortable with one another and building relationships with each other, it allows them to be more productive, as well as handle problems with ease and get past challenges.
- Aligned and clear responsibilities is commonly assessed in team health. Experts said expectations that are transparent for every single team member, from their functions to "responsibilities and accountabilities," increases the team’s effectiveness and competence. Some experts say most of the conflicts found on teams often involves a confusion around "individual responsibilities." They say successful teams understand their "individual responsibilities and know when they need to align."
- Processes and outcomes are also a common component that's usually measured in team health. "Measurable processes and outcomes" provides an "ongoing assessment" of a team’s "structure, function, and performance" that was offered as feedback for a team to improve on.
- Handling conflicts calmly is another common component that is assessed in team health. While working closely may create issues, successful teams know how to resolve misunderstandings and problems "in a healthy and quick manner." If personal issues linger among teammates, it causes the entire team's health and productivity to decline.
Methods in Which An Organization Can Effectively Measure Team Health
- Information Silos is a way to effectively measure team health by determining whether a team is disconnecting from others in the organization.
- Isolated teams may not obtain crucial information from within their organization, or they may isolate their information from their organization, which results to "slower decision making, poor collaboration and less innovation."
- This analysis observes the team's strength, as well as the amount of connections that exist between teammates and other teams within the organization.
- This analysis can also look into isolated people who have a "higher risk of low morale" and "siloed managers and or leaders," who don't connect teams to others in the organization.
- Some ways an organization can solve a silo mentality is by creating a vision for collaboration, finding common goals to work toward, communicating frequently, implementing collaboration software and tools, and educating and training employees from different departments together.
- Utilizing "network analysis to identify" whether a team is inclusive is another way to effectively measure team health.
- This method involves creating a list of crucial work events such as meetings, projects, email threads, and shared documents.
- Each event receives a score based on the number of involvement from senior employees, their role in the event, and the "volume of their contribution."
- Then, a score is assigned to each event based on the "level of inclusion" by observing the number of various demographic groups that participated. Successful teams have various diverse groups represented at the events, which showcases that different groups are provided with "equal opportunity to participate, learn new skills and prove their ability."
- Understanding a team's meeting habits is another way to effectively measure a team's health.
- Too many scheduled meetings may imply that teammates lack independence and requires meetings in order to come to general agreements on decisions.
- Too many meetings may also imply that a team does not utilize "efficient tools like email, chat, shared documents or task management platforms."
- A decline in "productivity and engagement" can result from too many "unhealthy meeting habits."
- These "unhealthy meeting habits" include more than 50 percent "of time spent in internal meetings," too many meetings that are more than an hour long, and meetings scheduled throughout the day rather than around lunch or at the end of the day.
In order to find the most common components usually measured or assessed in team health, we extensively researched through industry reports, scientific journals, and articles. Since there was not a single publication that specifically addressed the "most common components," we compared and contrasted all the components each publication listed. We narrowed down the top seven components that repeatedly showed up on each publications' list, which we have detailed above.