Health Check

Building high-performing teams with Health Checks


Factor Health Checks empower and equip your organization's teams to build high-performing cultures. 

Most of a person’s performance motivation is built within their teams. Getting motivation right at the team level is an extremely difficult responsibility for leaders to shoulder, and the challenge is only getting harder. Today's leaders have to address societal changes, globalization,  seismic technological shifts, and remote/hybrid work all at the same time. Teams need help.

Factor Health Checks are the pinnacle of bringing humanity and technology together in a way that was not possible before.

  • HUMANITY.  When I first became a leader, there was no science of performance. The best advice of the day was, "do what G.E. is doing." Of course, that didn't work. Today, there is a science of performance that has been researched extensively and shared in the acclaimed bestseller, Primed to Perform. Factor is built from ground up, on this science so that every team can be deeply motivated and high-performing.
  • TECHNOLOGY. After decades of research, experimentation, and practice, we learned that building a high-performing culture does not allow for a one-size-fits-all approach. Every team has unique challenges. To scale a high-performing culture, each team needs the benefit of carefully fine-tuned artificial intelligence to take local context into account and meet teams where they are.

Health checks combine the wisdom of humanity with the intellectual processing power of AI. When teams use Health Checks regularly, their performance, motivation, and retention will improve.

Why are so many organizations demotivating?

A lifetime before we wrote Primed to Perform, I was a leader of a software team—although the term "leader" is generous in my case.  As a first-time leader, I thought I should just leave my team alone and only swoop in during disasters. I focused more on being likable than actually leading. And perhaps worst of all, I did not think my role involved motivating my colleagues.

It took me two decades of research to see what I was missing. As leaders, we must intentionally create the conditions of motivation and performance.

For example, which one of these three teams would you most want to join?

  • The first team is sleepy. No one really cares about their work. Leaders are absent. They are going through the motions. Nothing changes. Nothing gets better.
  • The second team is high-pressure. People jump from crisis to crisis, fire drill to fire drill, worried about getting a bad rating or getting fired. They spend their days writing memos with the hope of looking competent in high-stakes meetings.
  • The third team is intense. Everyone cares about their craft and the impact it has. They feel curious and constantly experiment to improve. They focus on high-velocity problem solving and have low levels of bureaucracy. They hate wasting time and feel like every minute matters.

If you're like most people, you would choose the third team.

The research we published in Primed to Perform bears out a counter-intuitive truth that is obvious in retrospect. The best way to build a high-performing culture is not to focus on perks and other distractions; it is to build motivating teams that feel intense without pressure, thereby enabling people to do the best work of their lives.

What we ask of leaders has become insurmountable without proper tools and training

The challenge of building motivating teams has only gotten harder in the many decades since my first leadership experience. In today’s world of work, leaders must manage:

  • Remote and hybrid work - sometimes with teams that span the globe
  • Accelerating automation and technological change
  • Heightened competitive pressure
  • An increasingly fluid and competitive job market constantly seeking top talent
  • Increased cross-functional work
  • Generational changes in work expectations
  • Creating an environment of intellectual inclusion

To navigate this environment, not only must leaders learn to be world-class motivators, but also, they must learn to enlist the team in building its own performance culture. That’s where Factor’s Health Checks come in.

What are Health Checks?

Health Checks are a quarterly team meeting that empowers teams to build high-performing cultures. That team meeting is powered by a Health Check diagnostic tool in the Factor platform.

During a Health Check, team members answer questions about their motivation for the work in the coming weeks and choose from a menu of options for how the team might improve the way they work together. The result is an AI-generated report that synthesizes the group's responses, highlights positive developments, and gives tailored advice for how to improve. Unlike traditional employee engagement surveys, Health Checks are self-administered by the team, forward-looking, and focus on driving behavioral change.

Teams use the output of their Health Check diagnostic to form an action plan for the next quarter.

Think about it this way: on a hot summer day, would you rather have a thermometer or an air-conditioner? As you can see, measuring something isn't the same as improving it. This principle is also true when building high-performing teams.

What measures a team’s performance culture isn’t the same as what improves a team’s performance culture.

Many organizations' only tool to build high-performing cultures is their employee engagement survey. Today, over 80% of companies have employee engagement surveys, many of whom have had these surveys running for decades.  Nevertheless, only a third of employees are engaged at work - and this trend is worsening.

If employee surveys were enough to build high-performing cultures, we wouldn’t have epic disengagement. Yet here we are.

Health Checks are the missing tool in your culture toolkit

Have you ever been on two different teams or projects within the same company and felt different levels of motivation? In this scenario, the company didn’t change, and neither did you. Your local context changed. This proves that local context is instrumental in driving a person’s motivation. Our research on motivation builds on that of hundreds of scientists across 150 years, which itself builds on the study of thousands of philosophers since recorded history.

There are six underlying motivators - or, more accurately, motives. Play, purpose, and potential sustainably improve performance. Emotional pressure, economic pressure, and inertia will in the long run decrease performance.

While potential, emotional pressure, economic pressure, and inertia have “local” and “global” components, play and purpose are inherently “local” only. In other words, play and purpose cannot be managed centrally. They must be managed within teams. Roughly speaking, as we have studied the impact of these motives on performance, the team’s contribution is over twice as large as the centralized contribution. 

Most of the organizations we have studied and worked with did not manage team culture, which means that they did not manage the single most influential element driving employee motivation.  Factor Health Checks solve this problem by putting the tools needed for building a high-performing culture directly in the team's hands.

Health Checks are the anti-culture survey

Health Checks are not a culture survey; in fact, in many ways they are the exact opposite. They are the air conditioner, not the thermometer. Here’s how:

Used primarily as a measurement tool Used primarily as a coaching and behavioral change tool
Administered by centralized HR Self-administered by the team, with HR and senior leader oversight
Colleagues complete the activity alone on their own time Colleagues conduct the Health Check exercise together in a team meeting
Most commonly, conducted yearly Most commonly, conducted quarterly to drive consistent cycles of self-improvement
Typically asks colleagues about how they are feeling Asks colleagues to decide how they want to improve the team
Comments are anonymous Comments are not anonymous, so that colleagues can have a constructive, ongoing conversation that inspires agency
Backward-looking (i.e., asking questions about the past) Forward-looking, asking questions about the future
Reports are for executives, who must sponsor and execute initiatives Reports are for the team itself, who must ideate and plan local change
Slow and expensive manual production of reports Automated report production, given to the team instantly
Very little coaching and few resources provided for team leaders or colleagues Artificial intelligence and expert-crafted resources to help colleagues kick-start change
No nudging of individual contributors to own or drive change Individual contributors are asked to volunteer and champion change
If designed poorly, can “stir the pot” and create or amplify negative feelings Are designed to create and amplify positive feelings
Measures lagging indicators (e.g., engagement) Measures leading indicators (e.g., motivation and team habits)

The habits of a high-performing team

A motivated team drives growth, growth drives motivation, and so on. Cycles like this can be quite hard to create from scratch and just as hard to maintain over time. Factor Health Checks make it easy to manage both sides of the cycle.

  • On one side, Health Checks help teams measure and manage motivation.
  • On the other side, Health Checks help teams manage the habits that lead to growth.

Growth-oriented teams work in a learning loop. They continually, align, plan, perform, and learn:

Each step in that cycle is supported by 2-3 habits:

  1. Customer centricity – Are we setting ourselves up to think holistically and work in the best interest of our customer? Or are pressures from our systems and silos causing us to focus on our own interests and constraints?
  2. Clear strategy and goals – Do we know how to effectively prioritize work to achieve our vision, strategy, and goals? Or is prioritization and direction unclear, resulting in frustration, anxiety, and burnout?
  3. Team norms and belonging ­– Do we have aligned expectations and values that ensure we are operating as a single team? Or does it feel like we work merely as a collection of individuals?
  4. Well-organized teamwork Is all our work organized effectively, using repeatable processes, strategy boards, plans, and easily accessible knowledge? Or does it feel like our work is chaotically organized, making it difficult to improve, collaborate, or work efficiently?
  5. Compelling roles – Does every team member feel like they own a body of work that is interesting and important? Or do we divide ownership so that colleagues own tasks, but not meaningful scope?
  6. Productive team routines Does the team have efficient and useful routines to manage prioritization and problem solving? Or does it feel like our meetings are not helpful, where colleagues spend most of their time multi-tasking?
  7. Constant experimentation – Is the team always experimenting with tiny (or sometimes large) ways to improve performance? Or are we under too much pressure to experiment, making us unlikely to improve?
  8. Deliberate apprenticeship – Does the team set goals to learn new skills and then help each other learn on the job? Or are we focused only on negative feedback, and not on-the-job skill growth?
  9. Frequent feedback loops – Does the team take ownership of the feedback loops needed to improve and do quality work? Or do we rely on others - e.g., executives - to be the only source of feedback on our work?
  10. Efficient problem solving – Do teams have efficient ways (low documentation, low bureaucracy, low meeting time) of solving problems collaboratively? Or does it feel like we spend too much time in low-value meetings barely getting good guidance on problems?

These habits are critical to motivation and growth, but like any healthy habit, it takes leadership, teamwork, and systemization to maintain. Quarterly Health Checks are like the drum that keeps the team marching.

How do Factor Health Checks work? 

Factor Health Checks are surprisingly easy. As a team leader or facilitator, don’t worry about the meeting producing amazing output or being perfect. Instead, help your team enjoy the process itself (i.e., play).

Here’s a step-by-step guide if you want to understand how it works.

A. First, assemble the team

  • Organize a 90-minute meeting once a quarter for the team’s Health Check discussion. These meetings can be remote or in person. Everyone will need a computer (or smartphone) and an internet connection.
  • Sign up for Factor. As you’re signing up, invite your team to the workspace you created.
  • Factor will send them an email, which in today’s era of crowded spam-filled inboxes, is easy to ignore. To make sure they see the email invitation, you should personally send a note to your teams instructing them to search their email for “Factor”.
  • Send your team a message introducing the session.  You can use this sample for guidance:


On [INSERT DATE] we’ll be meeting for 90 minutes for a Health Check discussion. During this meeting, we will take a brief diagnostic survey about our team and spend most of our time coming up with changes we can make to improve our team’s impact and professional experience.

  1. Bring your computers, as we will need them to take the diagnostic and plan next steps.
  2. You should have received an email from Factor with a link to sign yourself up. Please do so. If you can't find the email, then it may be in your spam; please search your email for "Factor".

If you want to learn more about these Health Checks, you can read more at If you want to learn more about the science of motivation and performance, check out the book Primed to Perform or this summary article.

I’m really looking forward to this. Please come ready to brainstorm ways we can make our team better.

B. Take the survey during your meeting

  • Kick off the Health Check meeting by reminding the team to enjoy themselves and not worry too much about the outcome.
  • Next, share your screen to show your team how to navigate to their Health Check.
  • On the left side of the Factor screen, you’ll see all your workspaces. Show the team the workspace you want to use and click on the Health application.
  • From the Health Application screen, the team can go to the survey tab and take the survey.
  • Give the team about 10 minutes to complete their surveys.
  • As you can see below, the questions are easy to complete within 10 minutes. The survey asks for thoughts about the next three months of work, a reflection on motivation, and which habits you would like to improve. It also asks if you would like to volunteer to lead change.

C. Review the results together

  • Once everyone has submitted their surveys, the report will generate automatically.
  • Spend about 10 minutes reviewing as a team. The report will summarize the team’s motivation, which habits the team wants to prioritize, and who volunteered to help. Here’s what a typical report looks like:

D. Brainstorm ideas to improve as a team

  • Once you have reviewed the report together as a team, move to the last step of the discussion – the planning step.
  • Spend five minutes reviewing existing ideas, adding new ones, and upvoting your favorites.
  • Challenge each person in the team to add a minimum of one idea each. Keep following up with each person until they add at least one idea. Encourage them to put in ideas that might seem small, large, or weird.

E. Finishing up and next steps

  • Once you’ve selected at least one idea to try, close out the meeting. Congratulate the team on a great Health Check discussion and schedule the next one for around three months in the future. Even better - schedule the meeting to recur every 3 months.
  • Once you've picked an idea and made a plan, the team leader will need to keep checking in on it during the team’s weekly routines.

After a Health Check, the most important thing is not perfection, but rather simply trying something new. If you can implement one change as a team, that will prove that change is possible and spur momentum. If you can do this repeatedly over the course of a few Health Checks, then you can expect the team’s motivation – and thus, in turn, the team’s performance – to improve.

Originally published at: 2

Neel Doshi

Neel is the co-founder of Vega Factor and co-author of bestselling book, Primed to Perform: How to Build the Highest Performing Cultures Through the Science of Total Motivation. Previously, Neel was a Partner at McKinsey & Company, CTO and founding member of an award-winning tech startup, and employee of several mega-institutions. He studied engineering at MIT and received his MBA from Wharton. In his spare time, he’s an avid yet mediocre woodworker and photographer.

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Lindsay McGregor

Lindsay is the co-founder of Vega Factor and co-author of bestselling book, Primed to Perform: How to Build the Highest Performing Cultures Through the Science of Total Motivation. Previously, Lindsay led projects at McKinsey & Company, working with large fortune 500 companies, nonprofits, universities and school systems. She received her B.A. from Princeton and an MBA from Harvard. In her spare time she loves investigating and sharing great stories.

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