Alexis Monville (en)

Project Aristotle – A Conversation Starter

In Measure What Matters, John Doerr speaks about the quality prized by Andy Grove: collective accountability, fearless risktaking, measurable achievements. John explains that Google studied 180 teams using five questions. The internal project code name was Project Aristotle.

The results? Standout performances correlated with affirmative answers to these questions:

  • Structure and clarity: Are goals, roles and execution plans on our team clear?
  • Psychological safety: Can we take risks on this team without feeling insecure or embarrassed?
  • Meaning of work: Are we working on something that is personally important for each of us?
  • Dependability: Can we count on each other to do high-quality work on time?
  • Impact of work: Do we fundamentally believe that the work we are doing matters?

A few weeks back, I decided to test the five questions with a team during their quarterly face to face meeting. I used the length of the meeting room as a scale and identified graduations with sticky notes on the wall from zero at one end of the meeting room to ten on the other end.

I asked everybody to stand up and explained the rules. I will ask questions, the more you agree, the closer to ten you need to be, the more you disagree, the closer to zero you need to be.

We started with a few questions just to warm-up the group and to have opportunities to clarify the rules. And then, I began to ask the five questions.

First one about structure and clarity, two people moved to five and six, all the others looked at how the boss will react, and one ask a clarifying question: When you say “our team,” what do you mean? I clarified, the team is the people that are in this room now. The rest of the people are moving between seven and nine.

I am now asking a few clarifying questions asking them to explain their position on the scale. I also encourage them to ask questions. The newcomer in the team suggested that it could help us to use Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) as he was doing in his previous company. An interesting conversation followed, and I am capturing on sticky notes discussion topics for the rest of the meeting.

We continued with the other questions, and people moved faster to their graduations (even with their manager in the room). The conversations focused on what the people need to give a better grade, which gave us plenty of topics to cover in the meeting, restructuring the agenda to better fit in what was essential to the team.

The exercise was useful as it raised the awareness on some aspects that were missing to “really” called this group of people a team.

Try it and let me know!