Your team is failing at project after project. The team culture has a cancer and it feels like World War 3 in every meeting.

Tensions are high, production is low, no one is looking at the Trello board, and the client on hold on line 1 has been waiting for an update since World War 2.

Your head is on its ninety-somethingth bang against the wall and it’s clear the angst infecting your team is about to boil over.

If deadlines aren’t being met, if the values of the project aren’t clear or aren’t shared by all, if communication is strained, if the team leader isn’t actually leading, and if the client has no clue what’s going on, here’s a secret:

Your organization is SICK!

Early Detection Saves Lives

You monitor your physical health and wellness by eating veggies, exercising, and getting regular check-ups. Your organization and its teams need the same attention in order to thrive. Diseased team culture has the same effect on a project as cancer has on the body.

When left untreated, the sickness will fester and completely dismantle and dissolve a previously well-oiled machine.

Don’t jump out of the window, or quit your job yet. There is hope.

Have you ever sat and wondered what Fortune 500 companies got right and how they got it? The answer is regular monitoring on the health of a project and all the people and parts that are involved from concept to completion. These companies keep their fingers on the culture pulse and don’t allow infections to spread.

Early detection saves lives and a “Health Monitor” is a wonderful detector.

Obviously, change doesn’t come without effort, but if you’re reading this then you’ve already done the hardest part: acknowledged there’s a problem. Now let’s get into how you’re going to get out of this mess and how you can implement a Health Monitor to save the day.

What is a Health Monitor Framework

A Health Monitor Framework is a process of voting on the health of different aspects of the project. This is done with as many members of your team as possible. They are designed to help you clearly understand the strengths and weaknesses IN your team, AS a team.

You’ll then be able to effectively and efficiently change course. You’ll get everyone on the same page and get to the finish line without anyone frisbee-ing laptops into walls.

There are 3 ways health votes can be cast:
There are 8 categories that a health monitor focuses on:
  1. Full-time ownership
  2. Balanced team
  3. Shared understanding
  4. Value and metrics
  5. Proof of concept
  6. One-pager
  7. Managed dependencies
  8. Velocity

This is an incredibly simple yet thorough 8-step process to rate and resolve issues within a project. The involvement of the entire team promotes unity, teamwork, and a shared vision for completion. Anyone can run a Health Monitor session, so if you feel it’s necessary for your team, take the reins and get it done.

How to Facilitate a Health Monitor

With the objective of improving the overall health and performance of your project team, this should be an easy sell. Get everyone involved in the project together and block out an hour to facilitate the Health Monitor.

Below is an example of what a full year of running regular health monitors looks like. In this example, the team ran a health monitor once at the beginning of each quarter (1: January, 2: April, 3: July, 4: October), and a final one in December to reflect on the entire year.

NOTE: It really did take a full year for this team to get “95% healthy” across all eight categories. Be patient and try your darndest to remain optimistic. This is not an overnight matter. It starts off uncomfortable and stays uncomfortable for quite some time.

This wound needs to be opened up before it can heal, unfortunately. But it will heal.

Here’s what you’ll need to get started:
  1. Download a blank Health Monitor Framework and accompanying Worksheet from the above form.
  2. Schedule an hour-long meeting with your entire team. If your team is larger than 8 people, split into groups of 8 and then reconvene with your results.
  3. Read through the definition of each attribute (definitions are included in the Health Monitor Framework with all the details) out loud.
  4. On the count of three, everyone will cover their eyes and place a thumb in the middle as to how they rate the health of that attribute.
    • Thumbs up = green/healthy
    • Thumb sideways = room for improvement
    • Thumbs down = needs resuscitation STAT
  5. Record the average result on the Health Monitor grid. There is no rule here, but generally a full consensus of “thumbs up” warrants a green circle. Any uncertainty about perfect health usually indicates yellow. Red is usually pretty obvious…unfortunately…
  6. Have a candid discussion as a team about each attribute and brainstorm together what can be done to get healthy.
  7. Schedule your next Health Monitor checkpoint as a group.

Regular Monitors = Preventative Care

Health Monitors work best when done on a regular schedule. Clients change and projects change and remaining perpetually “emotionally nimble” as a group is essential. Some teams even schedule Health Monitors on a monthly basis. If your team has a lot of red areas, perhaps consider a weekly or bi-weekly cadence until you’re feeling a bit stronger.

When you complete a project, taking some time to do a post-mortem will take your team culture into that elite effectiveness zone. This will further reinforce the ritual of awareness check; first during the monitoring stage (more of a bird’s eye or organization-wide view) and then during the post-project stage (a precise task/project-oriented perspective).

Feel that sting? That’s PAIN, not paralysis.

The funny thing about problems is that when you’re aware of them, they hurt. I guess that’s not really funny. It’s more of an amazing feature of problems; they naturally create the discomfort necessary to fix themselves. Getting to a “mostly red” place in your business with your team is very motivating.

True, it can also be paralyzing. But that’s why we’re not leaving you in the “problem diagnosis” stage. Once you’ve acknowledged that something is seriously wrong, then the next logical step is to identify what and fix it. A sure way to overcome paralysis is to bring a proven process to the pain party. POW!

This incredible Health Monitor system has taken countless teams from “oh sh*t” to “we get sh*t done!” and tends to continue doing so for as long as it’s implemented. Working this process together from start to finish is an incredibly rewarding process that bonds a team. It’s like surviving a shipwreck. You will be practically bonded for life.

Make the decision to end your frustration now, step away from the HR office, and take matters into your own hands with a Health Monitor.

After all, we don’t run from failure, we run toward it.