How to formulate suitable check-in questions – what I have observed

“Check-in questions are childish,” so one member of the development team stated, which stimulated a vibrant discussion that filled our 15 minutes during our daily. “If we want to reach our goals, we need to be efficient and serious about our work.”

As a reflective person, I certainly scrutinized this statement and made a thorough investigation of the relevancy of check-in questions. And guess what I found? Check-in questions are not childish.

Why do we even “check in”? Why do we need to arrive? What benefit do we expect from asking a supposedly “random” question at the beginning of a meeting?

  • A check-in question strengthens the interpersonal net among the team.
  • It sets the tenants for a productive and effective meeting.
  • It invites everyone to speak and hence makes it easier for everyone to talk again.

Before the serious business starts, it is an excellent method to deflate the “tension-balloon” and to talk about something everyone can contribute to; a topic that needs less rational thinking and rather stimulates an intuitive answer.

The art of the question matters

Think about it like this: Everyone comes to work in a certain mood, has hobbies, specific topics of interests or recent happenings that circulate his or her minds. I believe that you can get every person to speak about something they are passionate or currently thinking about.

It is about who

However, I have observed that the challenge lies within the “who.” Who am I sharing these thoughts with? Some individuals consider topics outside the scope of their business (e.g., philosophical, fictive, abstract questions) as personal and intimate; subjects they feel uncomfortable sharing in a large group of colleagues. Check-in questions hence become vexing and not pleasant.

How do I deal with it?

  1. Know your audience
    Are you dealing with a loquacious, young-spirited, very open-minded, knowledge-seeking and sharing team or is your team filled with timid, closed-minded, not very cooperative individuals? Or even a mix of both?
  2. Formulate check-in questions that suit your audience
    The more non-cooperative and closed-minded your team, the less likely it is to be successful with personal or fictive questions (e.g., What do you appreciate about yourself?). I have noticed that answering rating and guessing questions positively correlates with closed-minded teams, provided that the question is pragmatic, non-personal and relevant. For mixed teams choose questions that are fun, non-personal, value-creating; and for open-minded teams make sure your question is fun or challenging, informative and creative.
  3. Make participation voluntarily but very attractive
    Clarify, that answering check-in questions is voluntarily, but make them damn attractive to answer. Make people want to be part of the discussion.

Here are a few example questions for each group:

Open-minded

  • If your firm was a car, which car would it be?
  • Imagine you were immortal and could choose one age forever, what age would it be?
  • Share one information about yourself that would surprise your co-workers!
  • What is the best advice someone ever gave to you/you ever heard?
  • How do you relieve stress?
  • Tell us your best joke!

Closed-minded

  • Guess how many aggregated story points we have reached over the last four sprints!
  • What are you most worried about at work this month?
  • My take away from the previous sprint is …
  • What is the number one expectation you hold towards a Scrum Master?
  • What does it take to accelerate the teams’ velocity?

Mixed

  • Describe the work culture you could most like strive in!
  • What do you appreciate about your co-workers? A compliment you’ve kept for yourself?
  • What goal have you set for your work this year?
  • How does the person sitting next to you feel?
  • What is the last app you downloaded on your phone and why?

Consequently, a team that communicates well works well together. Vivid check-in time is an indicator for an open-minded and motivated team. Know your audience and slip in questions that trigger a conversation.

Lastly, a tip I learned from my colleague: The word “check-in question” may put people off – ask the question without mentioning that you are about to ask a check-in question.

Written by

Lucy Larbi Lucy Larbi Lucy Larbi believes that change is associated with improvement. She is the best example of this: She studied in four different countries while completing her degrees. Then she worked on challenging projects in development collaboration in Algeria and Ethiopia, as well as other countries. As the founder of the Germany branch of "Future of Ghana Germany", one of her objectives is also economic improvements. Courageously facing the unknown is only one of Lucy Larbi's strengths. She is an excellent communicator, allowing her to integrate into a team as well as lead it. To achieve common goals, she has the ability to make complex situations understandable for everyone and shows that vision and pragmatism are not mutually exclusive.  

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TEILE DIESEN BEITRAG