Team health checks - now with more teams!
I had the chance to help out with team (squad) health checks again, this time with eight dev teams (last occasion was just two) - seven of which happened in a single week! One of the teams had done a few health checks in the years prior, and it was really cool to see their responses and approaches mature over time.
As before, a ton of learning and a great experience all around, with some really cool insight from the folks participating:
- On the topic of 'delivering value', one team member raised his hand after the team had said their piece and noted: "You [the team] have been describing delivering quality. Delivering value is something else." (which of course spurred other discussions and thoughts)
- Success metrics/OKRs have the power of crystallizing the organizational mission as results
- Legacy code/platforms constrain present/future options (i.e. tech debt doesn't just require recoup work in future, it prevents you from doing some things in future - as if to say, tech debt not only constrains your time, it constrains your options)
- Include your product and UX people, if they work with the teams - they provide valuable perspective
Some thoughts on being the facilitator:
- Doing two health checks per day with only one hour between them was a bit tight
- 'Booking 3 hours, assuming 2 hours' inevitably meant the meetings ran for 3 hours (that being said, these teams are a lot larger - 8-17 people vs. 5-8 people)
- Have someone else handle food arrangements for you (we just didn't end up having food)
- It's fascinating to observe what is not said alongside what is
- Remaining neutral is hard, especially if you are part of the organization (i.e. have a vested interest in seeing things improve) - resist the urge to plant ideas in folks' heads
- Start each meeting with humility, and the understanding that you do not have all the answers
- Remember that large value here comes from letting the team talk amongst themselves
Things I'm going to do differently next time:
- Silent idea gathering, group debate: https://www.infoq.com/presentations/Silent-Brainstorming (there were definitely some people that were quiet, and therefore didn't participate as much as they could have) - thanks, Steve!
- Food (veggie tray, cookies, whatever - snack food)
- Dedicate/block off time for clarifying notes/observations after each session
My biggest retrospective thought was that I bring an agenda with me. Even if my intentions are pure, is that a good thing for a team self-retro session? What's the real purpose of having health checks - to shepherd the teams, to provide group therapy, to facilitate team building? Should the team run their own health checks? I suppose you could call the facilitator out as an 'agile coach', and therefore a good thing. Not sure, but there will be more opportunities to learn and understand - we're going to start doing these quarterly, so as I learn, I'll share!