How Armory Improved Team Happiness and Executed More with Kona

"Kona enabled us to have more fun conversations, be mindful of what our peers are going through, and celebrate small victories. These ever-present reminders have changed our interactions in our team."

Sean Korten

Professional Services Manager, Armory

A woman celebrates with her dog and coworker over Zoom. Culture is king for teams!
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Armory helps enterprises ship better software faster. Their multi-cloud continuous delivery platform is trusted by Fortune 500 and Global 2000 companies to provide a secure foundation for development teams. Translation: the teams at Armory know what developers need to succeed.

To keep customers happy, Armory has a Solutions Architect team in their Customer Success branch that helps clients adopt, train, and succeed with Armory's platform. Sean Korten manages this distributed team of six, keeping his team aligned across every US timezone. Promoting empathy and psychological safety sit at the core of Sean's priorities.

“Defining our culture has been something we've been working on for over a year," Korten says, "It’s how we build a community, so it’s really important to me that we’re all mindful of our values. I try to remind myself to be intentional in communicating with my team, but it's really easy to forget in the day-to-day.”

Sean wanted to stay mindful while still freeing headspace for business initiatives, so he tried Kona.

"By maintaining higher happiness and satisfaction, we've been better at executing."
Sean Korten, Armory

Fighting isolation and silos with mood check-ins

Although customer success requires numerous key players and plenty of collaboration, solutions architects can often get very isolated in their roles. With the stresses of forced work-from-home, these silos can easily lead to burnout and losses in engagement. Sean needed a way to keep tabs on his remote team's needs without micro-managing or sending numerous direct messages.

Kona's Red-Yellow-Green check-ins helped Sean's team take a pulse with one another each morning. Teammates shared their Green wins that the team could celebrate and Yellow flags to pay attention to. This created a normal cadence of touch points, allowing for more transparency and moments for bonding.

It didn't take long for this mindfulness to translate to empathy. Sean's team started more open conversations and made an effort to understand what others were going through. They took time to pause and reflect on their interactions. They extended this mindfulness to other teams, encouraging more cross-department connection and collaboration.

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NOTABLE CULTURE WIN

Kona created a check-in habit in less than a week. On Sean's team, check-ins averaged 4.5/5 workdays per week.

Building team trust and supporting individuals.

HR tools can often get a bad rep. We spoke with some of Sean's teammates and got some feedback about their overall distrust of written feedback tools. So-called "anonymous" reporting tools aren't always anonymous. Negative feedback can sometimes lead to consequences for individual contributors. Teammates are cautious as a result, reporting more positive moods regardless of their true feelings. This is a signal of a lack of top-down trust.

That's why it's so important that Sean leads with vulnerability by reporting his Yellows and Reds as they occur. This transparency has built psychological safety on his team and improved their ability to have candid conversations. Sean makes it clear that these signals benefit other team members by adding context and that they never affect performance reviews.

This trust pays off. Sean noticed that more stoic individuals on his team felt more comfortable with sharing their emotions through Kona. This candor helps Sean find blockers in real-time and react to issues proactively. Beyond supporting his team's work, Sean can also support their wellness. In one instance, a teammate who felt Red hesitated to report his mood at first. After reflecting on the issue for a few hours, however, he reached out to Sean and got the support he needed.

"Kona has enabled us to be mindful about our culture without being too intrusive or overbearing. It's a great helper."
Sean Korten, Armory

Inspiring a positive environment with more outcomes.

By helping with isolation and trust, Sean has noticed a change in his remote team's dynamic since he installed Kona. "The more regular check-ins with the team and the manager has helped create a more consistently elevated mood and atmosphere," Korten said. Though Red-Yellow-Green is as simple as picking an emoji each morning, being asked how you're doing and being able to share every morning has created an environment of support and openness on Sean's team.

Happy employees are more productive. Plenty of studies show this, but Sean's team experienced it firsthand. "This environment has led to more productive days throughout the weeks and months," Korten said, "By maintaining higher happiness and job satisfaction, we've been better at executing." Sean tracks his team's executed story points and grades himself on his team's wellbeing. Sean sees the metrics as correlated and Kona led to an increase in both.

In Armory's Employee Handbook, their culture highlights values of empathy and experimentation. With Kona, Armory was able to build trust, fight isolation, and iterate on their current remote culture.

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Empathy is a habit.

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