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InfoQ Homepage News Atlassian Opens up Team Health Monitors and Team Playbook Blueprints

Atlassian Opens up Team Health Monitors and Team Playbook Blueprints

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After introducing a tool-agnostic version of its Team Health Monitors at Summit 2016, Atlassian now also bundles Team Playbook blueprints with the recently released Confluence Server 6.1. A Health Monitor workshop is a team self-assessment aiming to identify pain points and formulate a plan to address weak spots by running low-ceremony "plays" that "can help improve a team's overall health".

Atlassian has already contributed to software development culture with its quarterly internal ShipIt hackathons (previous coverage), which have been adopted by teams around the globe. After evolving a concept for team building and conflict resolution over several years, Atlassian has now opened up the resulting Team Health Monitor workshop format and supporting "plays" in form of an online Team Playbook, with relevant parts also being available as blueprints for Confluence Cloud and Confluence Server.

According to a Summit 2016 keynote segment by Atlassian Co-Founder Scott Farquhar, Atlassian has been running over five hundred Health Monitor workshops internally. He also emphasized that many customers have asked for assistance or guidance on how to run these within their own organizations, after being introduced to the concept at Summit 2015. The positive feedback from adopting users is shared by author Jason Fox, a renowned leader in motivation strategy and design (previous coverage), who summarizes his experience with the workshop:

We're loving using the project team Health Monitor. So much angst avoided. Progress amidst perplexity.

The goal of a Team Health Monitor is to "assess your team against eight attributes", which Atlassian has identified to be "common amongst healthy, high-performing teams", and then "walk away with a plan to address your weak spots". The initial assessment of strengths and weaknesses is supposed to be followed up by reoccurring checkpoints at an appropriate cadence selected by the team, for example weekly, monthly or quarterly. Atlassian's own preference are monthly checkpoints, which has proven sufficient to surface notable improvements.


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There are currently three different Health Monitors for specific types of teams with partially shared and partially unique attributes (more will be considered once additional team personas can be identified):

  • Leadership teams – longer term vision and high-level initiative focused, leading people who are executing the day-to-day work on projects
  • Project teams – customer focused, shipping product features, delivering internal projects, or launching new products
  • Service teams – high volume and quality focused, work is queue-based, with daily or weekly quotas

Atlassian suggests to start with a Health Monitor workshop as the slightly more methodical approach, because "this provides a baseline for your team’s health, tracking your progress, and builds trust amongst team members", in particular "if the source of the pain isn't obvious". After making the Health Monitor grid available in a suitable form (for example a handout), the workshop can be run in about an hour and comprises four main steps:

  • Set the stage (10 mins) – introduce the eight attributes for the team persona at hand
  • Small group assessments (20 min) – let two groups independently rate the team as red, yellow, or green on each attribute within the grid
  • Full-team discussion (20 min) – get both groups together to explain their rating and try to reach a consensus
  • Focus areas, actions, and owners (10 min) – ask the team to focus on only two attributes and "call out ways to move the reds or yellows toward green" in an "actionable, specific, and measurable" way

Once a team has arrived at an initial self-assessment, it can resort to a growing collection of plays filterable by team personas and pain points, such as analysis paralysis, communication breakdown, conflicting priorities, and leadership deficit disorder. Using the filters yields "a curated list of plays your team can complete to work better together". It has been developed by blending "elements of agile, lean, and design thinking" and contains "Atlassian originals" as well as "ideas we've borrowed from other experts in this space and adapted", such as DACI decision, empathy mapping, experience canvas, and roles and responsibilities.

Most plays "can be done in under one hour", and according to Atlassian, "aren't extra work, just new ways of working". Each play provides an overview and a more detailed summary of its particular goal and context. A play runbook suggests the number of participants, preparation and execution time, a difficulty, and a list of materials (which often includes a rubber chicken). It then details the steps participants should complete to achieve a play's goal. Accordingly, plays can also be run on their own without a Team Health Monitor baseline.

Atlassian's Head of R&D and "original instigator of the team plays and playbook" Dominic Price has given a longer presentation about the evolution and application of these techniques in More Guidance, Less Process: the Atlassian Playbook.

The Atlassian Team Playbook is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. It is primarily provided in a tool-agnostic online version with downloadable templates (PDF) and inline documentation, including a FAQ. Available health monitors and some of the plays can also be integrated with Confluence via free playbook add-ons from the Atlassian Marketplace. Crowd sourced support is available via the Atlassian Community.

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