This is what happened when Atlassian turned its own performance assessment system on its founders

Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP/Getty Images
  • The Atlassian senior executive team decided to run on itself the company’s Health Monitor, a performance review process.
  • The monitor assesses teams across eight performance areas: balance, cohesiveness, shared understanding, value and metrics, decision making, a one-page summary of strategy, managed dependencies, velocity.
  • Dom Price, Work Futurist at Atlassian, says the executive team at Atlassian often rated themselves as a red, a poor score.

A fool with a tool is still a fool.

Dom Price, Work Futurist at Atlassian, uses this line to demonstrate that the best tools in the world won’t work unless they are used properly.

Atlassian, the Australian grown, US-listed tech giant which makes collaboration tools, has for 15 years now been dedicated to making organisations more efficient.

“If you employ idiots — and none of us do but someone somewhere is hiring the mediocre people, we’re not, but someone out there must be — don’t give them technology, don’t make them more efficient, don’t make them more productive,” he says.

“If you give the power to the wrong people, you won’t get High Velocity Decision Making you will get terrible decisions and they’re probably going to be quite slow and mundane.”

At Atlassian, there are active 430 teams. They all use the systems developed by Atlassian, including the leadership team.

Dom Price recently ran the system for the Atlassian leadership, including founders Scott Farquhar, Mike Cannon-Brookes and their senior executive team.

“They got me in. What they said was, ‘We’ll run it ourselves.’ I said, ‘Yeah, cool but do you want to be a facilitator and a consumer on this or do you want someone independent’?”

He told them he was going to treat them the same way he would any leadership team from another company.

This chart explains the eight attributes a team explores and rates, either Green, Yellow or Red.

“And they were good,” he says.

“They actually embraced it. They found errors where they were struggling, they had the heated debate … and they drove improvement.”

How does Price rate them?

“They are doing really well,” he says.

“The great test of a leadership team is when they get all red, or low, scores on the scorecard.

“You get these leadership teams who like to bury their heads in the sand and think everything is awesome.

“And every thing is green, everything is brilliant.”

Here’s are how scorecard might look when the team has rated themselves:

Source: Atlassian

“The great thing for me doing this with our exec team at Atlassian is that they were arguing themselves to red.”

“Not because they wanted to beat each other up or be negative but to genuinely improve.”

Price says the Atlassian leadership took just 50 minutes to get to a score.

“There were no real egos in the room. It was a very level playing field which made my job as a consultant much harder because then I had to prod and provoke.

“But there was some good respectful dissent in there. It’s two degrees shy of a blood bath.”

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