How we collect team achievements with kudos cards

We’ve introduced kudos cards into our team routine, giving ourselves a way to give each other credit for great work, and keep a record of our achievements.

Here’s a quick description of how we’re doing this, and an exploration of some of the benefits.

How did we implement this?

To get us started, I ordered a card index box and some coloured index cards. I also cleared a space on our team board and put up a label saying ‘Kudos’.

Whenever one of us wants to give credit to a team mate, we take a card and write that person’s name, the date, and a brief description of what we want to acknowledge. We then pin the card to the board.

As we walk the board at stand-up, we pass through the Kudos area, and give a final opportunity for anyone in the team to bring in a card. We then read out the cards and hand them to the person mentioned.

After stand-up, we collect the cards and file them by name in the card index box, where they become a historical record of our achievements.

What deserves kudos?

We aim to cast a wide net and give thanks, praise and recognition for a broad range of activities. Here are some real examples, edited just to remove context:

  • Great communication with customers
  • Fixing a gruesome technical problem
  • Spotting that various conversations were happening around an issue, and bringing them together
  • Great pair programming
  • Running a successful demo
  • Organising a workshop to understand authorisation flows
  • Increasing visibility of test failures
  • Finding a simple solution to a puzzling problem
  • Using of Plant UML to explain data mapping

How does this help?

Boosting team morale

It’s easy to forget to give each other credit. By making it part of our routine, we can maintain a background of appreciation and build a more supportive, cohesive team.

Remember our own achievements

From time to time, most of us have to give examples of our achievements, and often this is tied in to important events like appraisals, salary reviews or applications for a new position or job. Rather than trying to remember what we did months ago, having a record of our successes gives us clear, contemporaneous evidence, and the fact that these achievements were called out by our team mates lends them extra authority.

Countering bias

We tend to bring a host of biases to our assessments of each other, giving the benefit of the doubt to people in our in-group, and raising the burden of evidence for marginalised people. I’ve seen how even apparently rigorous, tick-box assessment exercises can be subverted by bias, and I’m sure I’m not immune to this myself. If evidence is useful as a personal record of achievement, it’s even more powerful as a tool to counteract this bias, and the authority of peer recognition is particularly valuable in answering the weight of bias.

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