Samir Patel

Chief Innovation Strategist

September 12, 2016

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Rollercoasters, Tea, And Continuous Improvement

At 4pm on Wednesday afternoons in our London office, it’s tea time. Someone will make a pot of tea, cobble together some biscuits, and people will gravitate towards our large wooden table. Predictable for a bunch of Brits, right? Well, here’s where things get interesting: someone will start drawing a wavy line on a whiteboard. Others join in. Eventually a rollercoaster emerges from the drawing, but often a fantastical one, with Escher-like turns, underwater portions (with sharks!), and gravity-defying loops.

This is the rollercoaster check-in and it’s a way for our team to check in mid-week, get a sense of how others are feeling, and, well, drink some tea. There’s no big takeaway, but something interesting tends to happen: If someone indicates they’re at a low point, or have a lot of “hills” ahead, more often than not they’ll get some support throughout that week. And support takes many forms: a small treat, an offer of help, a quick stroll to grab lunch.

Drawing on whiteboard

The tea time isn’t enforced, and sometimes it doesn’t happen at all. But it’s part of our effort to build a workplace of continuous improvement. In between our bigger check-ins, whether they’re annual reviews or quarterly planning meetings, we want to make sure we have a chance to reflect on how things are going.

These micro-feedback moments give us a sense of mood and help remind us that we’re all human, and we’re all a team working together on things we’re passionate about. It also factors in that different team members have different levels of vocalisation—not everyone is going to proactively raise issues or share how they’re doing. The rollercoaster activity provides a space for this. So these check-ins are something small that helps keep us grounded.

And now we’re experimenting with a mood indicatora simple green or red button at the end of the day, to provide some data that we can be transparent about. Maybe we’ll stick with it, maybe we won’t, but we’ll always be looking for ways to better support one another and continuously improve.

Blue State Digital London office mood meter