Agile coaching

What does a good health-check feel like?

19 January 2022 • 4 min read

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Earlier this week, Jon Gilbert discussed the importance of health-checks. In this follow-up post, Jon's colleague Coral Smith explores what the health-checks - or a lack of them - actually feel like. 


Health checks are important for me to feel like I’m doing a good job and if you’re reading this, I’m guessing it’s because you’re not yet convinced of their value. Hopefully I can convince you to try them, or change them up so they’re done for the right reasons. I want to discuss what a good health check feels like, how they happen, and what value they give teams. Then touch on what happens when I see us skip them, and a final call to arms to go forth and health check.

What does a good health check feel like?


The best health checks I’ve experienced are not a step in a process, or a way of trying to get all invasive into the brains and personal lives of my teammates.


  • They’re respectful, and help me feel more connected with my team.
  • They give me clarity on how effectively we’re working together and communicating out to the rest of the world.
  • They give me shared dimensions and language that help me have better conversations.
  • They address niggles before they become blocking issues that impact the performance of the team.
  • They give us a communal agreement on where we as a team are compromising so we can acknowledge that the payback will come later - it’s unavoidable, and is a dose of humility that’s hard to take alone.

How they happen changes like the great British weather. Some teams enjoy a Spotify health check. Others prefer regular one-to-ones and the odd unstructured ‘putting the world to rights’ conversation while grabbing lunch together.

However they’re done, we should always leave them with a sense of purpose and clarity to go and do whatever it was we decided would make our work lives better. Write the email you were avoiding. Have a conversation with the stakeholder who asked you to do something you dismissed as impossible and figure out something possible. Put the dirty mug you left on your team members desk in the dishwasher.



Read next: Are your stand-ups a waste of time? Here's how you can improve them.



Why do we avoid this feeling of infinite possibility?

I usually see us procrastinate and avoid certain tasks not because we don't care about getting stuff done but instead - and perhaps counterintuitively - because we really care about getting stuff done.


We love that ‘ship it’ thrill we get when we see that our work is useful so let's do that again. Maybe we’ve missed the last couple of deadlines and don’t have time to sit down and ask ourselves why - after all, the retrospective comes after the work is delivered! If you keep doing that, you get the fatigue and listlessness that comes with scrolling Reddit or Twitter for too long. It feels like a rut. Then it feels like burnout.

Sitting back, putting things down, feeling around the work we’ve done and the relationships we’ve built can feel awkward and even invasive if you don’t make a habit of it. It can feel superfluous and misguided to assume we’re not performing at our peak. But then surely there’s no harm in doing one if that is the case, right?

Maybe it’s the name that puts us off. That's a shame, because when you bring people together and ask how they're feeling or how effectively they’re working with each other and the wider business, there’s almost always something they want to change to help make things better. More importantly, there’s always a feeling of connectedness that wasn’t there when we came into the room. You feel aligned with each other - as if you could go out and give those pit stop tyre changers in F1 a run for their money!


Don't overlook or fear the health check


So, where does this leave us?


Hopefully feeling inspired! No industry can do without health checks, quality assurance, peer review, or whatever your industry wants to call the process that builds a community of people that helps each other work more effectively.


They give us the space to do the necessary thinking and preparation that is essential to innovation and experimentation - they also strengthen teams, giving us the chance to maybe take that extended team lunch.


True, no blog post can help you build the most effective health check for you and your team, but we can encourage you to one that works for you and ask that you share it with others.

Lots of intelligent, insightful people have ideas that make health checks effective and if you’re reading this it’s either because:


  • You want a happy healthy team and you care enough to do your own research to make it happen.
  • Someone near you cares enough to give you blog posts and they’re trying to convince you to try.


That's a brilliant starting point for a culture where health checks are valued. So, keep exploring, experimenting, iterating, and sharing and eventually you’ll find your healthcheck sweet spot.



Coral Smith is a Product Developer at AND Digital.



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