Looking for inspiration on how to gain a shared insight in the current state of your team? And curious how to find actions for your team to improve? Read below about the ‘thermometer session’, a workshop that we designed to improve our own business unit. The goal of these sessions is to get an insight in the current & desired state of the unit. In other words: how does the team feel currently about the unit and how do they think it should be. Based on these insights we take action to further improve our unit, which results in a happier working environment for everybody.

How does it work?

One of the core elements used in this workshop are the ‘thermometers’. Every thermometer measures a topic that you want to assess. Ideally these thermometers are defined beforehand, based for example on organizational values or perceived issues. All members of the group fill out the current state (ist) and desired state (soll), according to their perception. Once everybody is done, you can easily visually inspect where the biggest gap is between:

  • the current state and desired state
  • the difference in perception between group members

Based on this inspection you can decide which topics should be discussed in more detail. In this discussion you can then define the next steps to be taken to reduce the gaps.

 

How to run this workshop?

There are multiple steps to take. Some preparation will definitely make it easier to run the workshop. During the session, we collect data as first step. Once the collection is done, the data is jointly analysed, followed by a discussion on the gaps & identification of action points.

Beforehand

In order for the workshop to run smoothly I’d suggest the following:

  • Define thermometers beforehand – This allows you as facilitator to bring focus in the session and also think about an initial description for each thermometer.
  • Book a room with enough wall space to put up all thermometers – Make the thermometers big enough so that all measurements fit.
  • Bring a lot of markers – This will allow multiple people to fill out thermometers at the same time.

Running the workshop

Start with introducing the process & thermometers. Also, go through the descriptions of the thermometers, this will make sure everybody gets a shared understanding of the meaning of every thermometer. Then it’s time to collect data!

Step 1 - Data collection

Hand out markers and ask people to put their measurements on the thermometers. I’d suggest the following:

  • Ask people to use different colours for the current & ideal situation – This allows for easier visual analysis.
  • Ask people to put their initials with every measurement – This allows you to easier find these people later on during discussion.

Step 2 - Data analysis

Once everybody has filled out the thermometers check if you can easily detect gaps in every thermometer. See if you can visually highlight them. As mentioned before, there are 2 different gaps to look at.

  • The gap between the current and ideal state – Which indicates a difference in current and ideal state of your team.
  • The gap between individual responses – Which indicate a difference in perception between the team members.

My suggestion would be to do this with everybody in the room because it creates a shared insight on the current state of your team.

Step 3 - Discuss the gaps

Once the gaps have been identified you can start discussing those and come up with actions to close the gaps. Based on the urgency of the topics at hand, the amount of people in the meeting and the amount of time available you can choose to

  • Discuss the biggest gaps with the whole group.
  • Split up in multiple groups which discuss a single thermometer and the report back to the other groups.

Note: There is no need to always discuss all thermometers. Focus on the biggest & most important gaps first.

Step 4 - Jointly create a todo-list

So now that the gaps are analysed and actions are defined, it’s time to aggregate them in a joint to-do list. By doing this with the whole team you get a shared insight on the steps being taken to improve the team. Be sure to assign action holders to every action.

Done

And that’s it! Now you have a list of actions to take. Of course you can also use this workshop to take periodical measurements, using your the first measurement as baseline. After a certain amount of time (in our case 3-6 months), you can do another session and see if thermometer values have been improved. It might be good to start your next session with evaluating if all actions on the todo-list have been taken.

Note: Special thanks to Serge Beaumont for helping us getting started with these sessions!