Software projects can be chaotic and stressful. A temperature reading is a simple yet powerful method to help your team achieve, maintain, or regain a positive mindset.
During the hectic workday, software professionals can easily fall into a pattern of noticing and reacting to what has gone wrong, while missing or ignoring all that has gone well. If you'd like your team to achieve, maintain, or regain a positive mindset, consider running periodic temperature readings.
A temperature reading is a powerful, yet simple, tool created by Virginia Satir, a family therapist whose models and tools are being used with great success in software organizations. This tool can help teams reduce tensions, solidify connections, and surface important information, ideas, and feelings-enabling team members to interact more constructively and productively. For teams that work together under demanding or deadline-driven circumstances, it's a superb technique to use at project milestones or during team meetings.
Best of all, you don't need a hefty manual, a three-day class, or an outside consultant in order to learn how to run a temperature reading. Simply follow these guidelines:
Setting the Stage
A temperature reading consists of five segments, each one taking as much time as the group would like to spend on it. A full temperature reading takes from fifteen minutes to an hour or more, depending on the size of the group and its circumstances.
A facilitator guides the group through the temperature reading, ensuring that adequate time is allowed for each segment. Any member of the group can serve as facilitator. In some organizations, team members rotate the responsibility so that each can gain experience at it.
The Five Segments of a Temperature Reading
1. Appreciations. This first segment is the most important of the five. If time doesn't permit a full temperature reading, concentrate on appreciations and skip the rest.
In this segment, everyone who would like to can express an appreciation to one or more of the others. An appreciation can be for anything, whether critical to the project ("I appreciate you for helping me find that pesky bug.") or simply a kind gesture ("I appreciate you for bringing donuts to our meeting.")
An appreciation takes a specific form:
"I appreciate you because . . ."
"I appreciate you for. . ."
In other words, speak directly to the person ("I appreciate you"), rather than to the team about the person. This approach is very different from what I think of as "thankyouless" thank yous. For example, I once attended a company event where the software director invited each team member in turn to the front of the room. Then, instead of looking at the person and saying, "Tom, thank you for your work in analyzing requirements," he focused on the audience and said, "Tom's role was to analyze requirements." Don't follow that model; express your appreciation directly and personally.
If you aren't accustomed to giving appreciations, you may be surprised at how satisfying it is to do so. Seeing people light up in response to your recognition is an uplifting experience, as is the discovery that something you did was more important to others than you realized.
Of course, you needn't wait for a temperature reading to give an appreciation. There's no wrong time to acknowledge the support, guidance, or kindness of others. If we each do this once, and then again, and then again, others will soon start doing the same, and together we will be setting the stage for a more caring and productive workplace.
2. New Information . This segment is for information sharing. Often, members of a team have information that other team members may