In March of 2022, my Squad Health Check Miro template got published to the Miroverse. The Squad Health Check, originally developed at Spotify, allows teams to reflect on topics like “Is work fun?” and “Are we learning?” or “Do we have a good sense of our mission?” and more. Making it available as a Miro template means running health check sessions with your teams is easier than ever. I want to share what I initially liked about the exercise, the changes I made with the template, and some notes from my experience using it with teams.
About the Squad Health Check
As I wrote in the template’s Miroverse description:
The Squad Health Check model was originally developed at Spotify by Henrik Kniberg & Kristian Lindwall and published in 2014 under a creative commons license. The Squad Health Check template is a Miro version of their original model for teams to visualize and improve their current situation using different perspectives not typically considered in standard team health monitors or retrospectives.
Why should you do a Squad Health Check?
The Squad Health Check helps answer the questions: “Is this team healthy?” And “Is this team improving?”
A Squad Health Check is a good option if you’re looking for a way to:
– Malcolm Bastien, Malcolm Bastien’s Squad Health Check template | Miroverse
- Track a team’s health across various dimensions over time and how they’re trending.
- See what teams are struggling and who might need help across a portfolio.
- Easily customize a health check by integrating dimensions specific to your context.
- Experiment with something different for your next retrospective.
- Find new areas for improvement to bring into your team’s next retrospective.
- Understand not just a team’s productivity but also if people feel happy and fulfilled in their team.
A Squad Health Check workshop begins by gathering people from a team and reviewing the different categories included in the health check. Each category has various “examples of awesome” and “examples of crappy” to help illustrate what good and bad look like. The team then dot votes on how they feel about each category according to the three scores:
- Green: Green doesn’t mean perfect. It just means the team is happy with this category and sees no significant need to improve.
- Yellow: Yellow means there are some important problems that need addressing, but it’s not a disaster.
- Red: Red means this category really sucks and needs to be addressed.
My Thoughts on the Squad Health Check
Since going remote a few years ago, I’ve focused on creating visual templates to help facilitate better, more productive, fun meetings. The Squad Health Check is especially suited for being run remotely for a few reasons:
- The exercise scales well and can be used with small or large teams.
- The exercise touches on both the intangible, human side of work (learning, fun, teamwork) and the delivery-focused aspects (easy to release, speed, suitable process).
- Being able to export and save the boards after running the health check exercise makes it easy to have a rich reference of how a team was feeling at a point in time.
- The green/yellow/red categories, along with the “Examples of awesome” and “Examples of crappy” make it quick for people to grasp without too much explanation.
Sometimes in agile retrospectives, facilitators might focus too much on abstract agile concepts like flow, which teams don’t always think about and can be challenging to relate to. If you go through some of the “examples of awesome” from the Squad Health Check, you’ll notice a pattern:
- “We deliver great stuff! We’re proud of it, and our stakeholders are really happy.”
- “We love going to work and have great fun working together!”
- “We get stuff done really quickly! No waiting and no delays.”
- “We know exactly why we are here, and we’re really excited about it!”
These examples are all written in the first person and clearly describe day-to-day behaviours. These examples help to convey what the categories are trying to cover and make it easier for people to visualize what working in an awesome or crappy way would look like.
My Experiences with the Squad Health Check
While reading about the Spotify Squad Health Check, facilitating the exercise online with my teams, and watching others facilitate the workshop, I noticed things that influenced some of my design choices and how I now run these workshops.
Usually, when facilitating sessions, I like using sticky notes to represent people’s votes as it also gives them something they can add their comments to, but sometimes this confuses people or creates friction when they don’t have anything to add. They might not vote if they have no other comments to add, or they’ll write on the sticky note comments like “Good.” Because of that, in this template, I decided to use dots to capture people’s votes to help focus the voting activity only on that, and created a separate area on the right side for comments and questions.
After teams have added all their votes, reviewing all categories one by one can be tedious and repetitive. Instead, keep the conversation focused by asking people to share what they see that surprises them. Alternatively, you can look for two or three categories that scored neutral or negative and talk about those.
After running the exercise for the first time with a team, they commonly want to add more categories. Make the template theirs by adding new categories your team comes up with, and remove any default categories you don’t find relevant or helpful. Focus the workshop on the topics that matter most. I suggest limiting the number of total categories so that you can complete the exercise in an appropriate amount of time without tiring people out.
Lastly, before ending the session, it’s important to identify what areas the team wants to focus on and to develop concrete, achievable next actions. Even if people enjoy the exercise, they’ll get bored and skeptical about spending more time on it if it’s not turning into tangible improvements in their work.
If you’ve used this template with your teams, thank you! If you haven’t yet, the points above should help you run a more successful workshop. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to let me know. I hope the Squad Health Check helps you better understand your team’s health and helps with your continuous improvement efforts!