Fiona Smith Columnist

Fiona writes on workplace issues, including management, psychology, workplace design, human resources and recruitment. She is a former Work Space editor at The Australian Financial Review and has also covered property, technology, architecture and general news.

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Atlassian: Is this the first self-correcting organisation?

Published 24 October 2012 07:19, Updated 10 April 2013 07:40

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Atlassian: Is this the first self-correcting organisation?

Atlassian’s Mood App has allowed it to establish that leaders were not talking with their people about performance as much as they should be.

Imagine the potential of a tool that could tell you on a daily basis what your employees are thinking.

It could let you know if they are happy and what changes their mood. You could see the immediate impact an announcement has on their motivation and get almost instant feedback on your strategies.

Talk about tapping into the collective consciousness.

The ability to act on that daily flow of information could also create a self-correcting organisation – a company that could rectify issues almost before they have started to register as a problem.

Australian software company Atlassian has developed a “Mood App” for iPads, which are scattered through its new headquarters in the heritage bank building at 341 George Street, in Sydney.

Each day, while waiting for an elevator, employees can tap on the screen to answer a question, which changes every day.

Tap a second time and they can immediately see a graph that shows the response to the question across the organisation.

Apart from satisfying their curiosity and supplying them with valuable information about the organisation they work in, this also lets them know if their opinion is out of whack with their 550 colleagues in Sydney, San Francisco, Amsterdam and Poland.

Last year, the chief executive of Indian outsourcing giant HCL, Vineet Nayar, said he was playing around with the idea of having an emoticon on employee desktops so they could transmit their emotional state to him every day.

The Atlassian app takes this idea a lot further.

The global head of human resources at Atlassian, Joris Luijke, says the app in its current form has been operating for only four months, so it is too early to crunch the data to match emotional states with productivity or to be certain about what company or external events affect employee engagement.

However, already a question on manager feedback has been able to establish that leaders were not talking with their people about performance as much as they should be.

“We can act upon some of the feedback [from the app],” he says. “With managers not giving appropriate feedback, we suspected it but we couldn’t prove it. Now, we can see the differences even between the different floors of the office.”

In response to what they found, Atlassian set up some leadership development sessions to let managers know what effective feedback looks like.

“Obviously, it is really important for the company to respond quickly to issues . . . we are so much more agile.

“We can create a self-correcting organisation.”

Luijke says they have also been able to track how much the release of a new product boosts the mood within the company: “Just after and just before the release, a lot of excitement builds.”

It can also pick up whether people are feeling stressed and Luijke’s team can act to reduce the pressure immediately, rather than waiting for the yearly employee engagement survey to try to deal with tensions that have building for months, if not years.

“If we see something [on the mood app], we can also go and ask follow-up questions very quickly,” says Luijke.

“There’s loads of potential in the thing.”

At this stage, the app is being trialled by another organisation and Atlassian intends to make it available for free.

“We are not a company that develops HR tools, we can open source it after a while.”