My experience with Squad Health Check as a Retrospective format
Many myths and prejudices surround the Spotify model. Some people in Agile and Tech community find it so attractive that they even try to apply it as a model to scale other organisations. Unfortunately, many of them tend to forget that the famous post by Henrik Kniberg was only supposed to share a snapshot overview of the way Spotify’s engineering culture looked back at March 2014. However, this is not what my article is about.
Besides “Spotify Model” itself, there are many other interesting and useful tools and techniques that have been created within the Spotify Labs and proudly shared with the community (kudos for that!). One of the most well-known is the Squad Health Check model.
Many people, including the authors of the original model, offer to run it as a standalone workshop intended to evaluate the current state of Agile in one or several teams across the company. I decided to apply it as a Retrospective format with one of my teams I currently work with at N26.
Sprint Retrospective is a regular event your team is supposed to have. Naturally, it is gathered to reflect on the current Sprint and come up with precise and specific action points to apply during the next Sprint.
In our case, the team was performing and feeling very well throughout 4 Sprints, so coming up with actions based only on the last Sprint’s analysis became a problem. The team itself is also pretty new and applies Scrum just for three months.
Getting prepared for the next Retrospective, I decided to proceed with Squad Health Check as a tool for Gathering Data* for two reasons:
- It switches the scope we reflect on from one Sprint to the way team feels in general;
- It provides a good reason to celebrate our current team state and achievements (of course, if you don’t uncover too much problems and issues in the process).
* You can learn more about 5 steps of a Retrospective from “Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great” by Esther Derby and Diana Larsen.
You can download and print all required materials following the link I’ve already provided while introducing Squad Health Check. In my case, I decided to proceed with an “MVP” edition of the cards and just stapled them to a Planning Poker deck we already own.
One of the ways to hold voting proposed in the original description model is dot voting. Since we already had cards, we made it in a Planning Poker style. Every team member had three cards: green, yellow and red. I read an area name and possible extremes (green and red) aloud, and the team started voting. We didn’t hold any upfront discussion like you usually do estimating User Stories. In our case, we had “clear result” for 5 areas of 11.
In case if we had different votes on the area, we started a discussion. That allowed us to mix Gathering Data and Generating Insights steps together while retaining our focus on one area at a time. My role was to facilitate a discussion and write down anything that may be useful to remember.
This part of the Retrospective took around 40 minutes. After that, we briefly revised our results once again and switched to the Action Points. In our case, we were focused only on the areas where we had diversified opinions. I can imagine that you may also focus your action points on preserving a current “State of Health” if you don’t have too much diversity in answers.
We also had a round of sharing appreciations as a wrap up accompanied by coffee and donuts. That gave us a chance to add some “celebration flavour” to a regular team event.
In the end, the team finished with having specific action points to work on, positive attitude after the celebration of our current success and a beautiful poster to put in their team’s office space. We plan to perform these Squad Health Checks bimonthly to keep an eye on team dynamics and make it transparent not only within the team but to the rest of the company too.
P.S. Thanks for reading! I really hope you found something useful in my experience sharing post. Feel free to contact me or leave a comment if you want to share your thoughts on the topic!