Agile Team Health Check

We’ve been thinking a lot recently about how to work out if an Agile team is healthy. By healthy I broadly mean happy and productive. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Sick teams will sometimes effectively hide the fact that they are poorly from their managers as they feel that there may be a negative impact on them.

The key measures we are starting to think about now are:

1. One-To-One
This is an easy one. It’s management 101. Holding regular one-to-ones with team members is pretty important. Even though they are talking to their boss, your team members will be out of their normal team environment. This makes them a little more likely to get something off their chest.

2. Stable Velocity
Healthy teams will usually have a stable velocity. By stable, I mean bouncing within about 10% of the six Sprint average over the long term. If you see the stable velocity going into slow decline (or rapid decline!), it may well be a symptom of a poorly team.

3. Dull Retrospectives
If your team are disengaged from their retrospectives and they look like they are just going through the motions mechanically, it’s time to dig a bit deeper. Are they unhappy about something? Do they feel that their suggestions for changes are never implemented?

4. Innovation
This is closely linked to Dull Retrospectives. If it has been a while since a major new innovation has been introduced into the team, you should be starting to ask why. The team may be going through a natural period of stabilisation. If so, great! If the team has simply stopped generating good ideas, then maybe they are not so healthy.

5. Defect Rates
Hopefully you are collecting some automated and manual metrics about quality. This could be production bugs, build failure rates etc. Escalation in any of these may indicate a team that is unwell and in need of a bit of medical help.

6. Tooling
There are various great tools out there that will let you gather anonymous feedback from your team. They measure the “happiness” of your team (and sometimes benchmark that happiness against other companies). Investigate these kinds of tools (TinyPulse is a nice example).

7. Profiling
There are various different personality profiling systems available. Sadly, some are total bunkum, but some are great. I’ve had success in the past with Belbin profiling on teams. The team profiles should complement each other. Teams with an imbalance of personalities may well be suffering sickness in silence!

As to what you do about your poorly team, well, that’s a different blog article… Watch this space…

Nick is the CEO of McKenna Consultants Ltd, based in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK. Nick is 1 of only 5 Certified Scrum Coaches in the UK. McKenna Consultants are a professional team of computer programmers delivering the highest quality software specialising in a broad range of technologies for windows, web-based and mobile applications, including apps for the iPhone, iPad, Android and Windows Mobile. McKenna Consultants also deliver Agile coaching, consultancy and training to organisations of all sizes. For more information on the services that Nick and McKenna Consultants provide, please visit:


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