Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 1, Issue 35;   August 29, 2001: Take Regular Temperature Readings

Take Regular Temperature Readings

by

Last updated: August 8, 2018

Team interactions are unimaginably complex. To avoid misunderstandings, offenses, omissions, and mistaken suppositions, teams need open communications. But no one has a full picture of everything that's happening. The Temperature Reading is a tool for surfacing hidden and invisible information, puzzles, appreciations, frustrations, and feelings.

Denise had just spent two intense hours explaining to Marcus why the changes he wanted were likely to set the project back. Marcus kept insisting that removing requirements should save time, not cost time, and Denise just couldn't explain to Marcus why that just ain't so.

Finally, Marcus understood her point, and that's when he told Denise that the changes had been agreed to at the CEO level. So that was that. "If only I had known," Denise thought, "I wouldn't have wasted the afternoon debating it." Not a great day for Denise.

How much time and energy do we expend, only to learn later that it was all for naught? How much anger do we experience, only to feel sheepishly regretful later, when we see the full picture? How often have we kept to ourselves words of kindness or appreciation, because of the embarrassment that we've felt about giving them voice?

The Temperature Reading, invented by Virginia Satir, gives team members an opportunity to speak their minds, with little risk of embarrassment or hurt. All you need is a quiet, comfortable room.

In its most usual form, the Temperature Reading has five parts. In each part, team members voluntarily come to the front of the group to offer their thoughts to all.

Appreciations
A thermometerFirst we express appreciation for anything meaningful — large or small — for support, contributions, understanding, or even a good joke. Once the appreciations start rolling, they gather momentum, and they build positive feelings that make the rest of the Temperature Reading so successful.
New Information
Here we offer information that we think others might not know yet. Often this section clears up puzzles and resolves complaints even before they're voiced.
Puzzles
Puzzles are questions we have that we don't know how to answer. Offering the question to the whole group makes everyone aware of the puzzle at once, and helps engage everybody in resolving it, once the Temperature Reading ends.
Complaints with Recommendations
The Temperature Reading
gives team members an
opportunity to speak their
minds, with little risk of
embarrassment or hurt
Next we can complain, provided we also recommend something that helps resolve the issue we raise. Complaints are usually heartfelt and are almost always heard that way.
Hopes and Wishes
Closing the Temperature Reading on a high note — one of hopes and wishes for the future — gives us a chance to express our dreams. It can be inspiring and we can sometimes inspire others.

Like all group activities, the Temperature Reading improves with practice. Once you've learned the rhythm, regular Temperature Readings can keep a well-functioning team in the groove, and help take a troubled team — one that's too cold or too hot — to a place of comfortable warmth. Go to top Top  Next issue: Email Happens  Next Issue

Rick BrennerThe article you've been reading is an archived issue of Point Lookout, my weekly newsletter. I've been publishing it since January, 2001, free to all subscribers, over the Web, and via RSS. You can help keep it free by donating either as an individual or as an organization. You'll receive in return my sincere thanks — and the comfort of knowing that you've helped to propagate insights and perspectives that can help make our workplaces a little more human-friendly. More

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Related programs

Managing in Fluid EnvironmentsAlthough the Temperature Reading process was originally developed by Virginia Satir to support her work in family systems, it's no less valuable for groups in the workplace. My program, "Managing in Fluid Environments," explores how to apply this process to bring forth valuable but hidden information in situations where changes come along at such a rapid rate that the next change comes along before we reach the "New Status Quo" of the changes we're already dealing with. More about this program.

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Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

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One of the attributes of team cultures is something called power distance, which is a measure of the overall comfort people have with inequality in the distribution of power. Power distance can determine how well a team performs when executing high-risk projects. Available here and by RSS on October 23.
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