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Team Happiness metric

My excellent colleague Glenn and I were exchanging some jokey emails earlier in the year about team happiness. We had asked our teams (we both have several agile teams) to collect their own rating of team happiness on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the most happy you could be - at their team retrospectives every iteration.

We exchanged the results. Our comparison went something like this simulation:

Glenn’s Team 1 – Iteration 1 – 3.2, Iteration 2 – 3.3, Iteration 3 – 3.5
Glenn’s Team 2 - Iteration 1 – 3.4, Iteration 2 – 3.5, Iteration 3 – 4.1

Alex’s Team 3 - Iteration 1 – 4, Iteration 2 – 3.5, Iteration 3 – 4
Alex’s Team 4 - Iteration 1 – 3, Iteration 2 – 3.1, Iteration 3 – 3.2

I joked about getting competitive, i.e. could my teams’ happiness beat his teams’ happiness rating?

He retorted that he could give me a team score from our inherited waterfall project team:

Waterfall Team - Iteration 1 – 0, Iteration 2 – 0, Iteration 3 – 0

Poor team! It was not going well for this team, they had a fixed date, a fixed scope and a fixed budget (of course) and no way to accommodate discovered scope (of course) and new scope was being discovered fast.  

At the time our sarcastic emails made me smile, but actually something worse than our imagined team happiness score for this waterfall team was, the actual score should have been represented like this:

Waterfall Team – ?

This team was not tracking their happiness each iteration, they weren’t using iterations let alone retrospectives. There wasn’t an opportunity for team reflection, let alone the team agreeing their happiness rating. We assumed it was zero but in fact we just did not know.

A few months later we were visited by the impressive speaker and coach Bernd Schiffer. During an engaging conversation about leadership and culture he asked me – ‘How do you measure leadership and culture?’ It threw me for a second then I remembered Glenn and I joking about team happiness scores. My answer is that if you can’t even produce something that looks like a team happiness score, i.e. you aren’t even bothering to ask if teams are happy and satisfied in their daily work, that in itself is a measure. I.e. measure culture by asking the question, ‘Do you measure team happiness?’

This missing metric can tell you so much.


Bernd Schiffer said…
Thanks for the nice words, Alex. Good post where you describe the (obvious) benefits of being able to do iterations, like having a simple (well, if you do iterations) metric like a happiness index.

Btw, you might be interested in the approach I wrote down here: How to Track the Team’s Mood with a Niko-niko Calendar It's a description of tracking happiness on a daily basis, which could give you and your team even more insights.

But hey, you and your team are already doing so much better than a lot of teams I know of, who don't care about their happiness at all. Congrats to you and your team!

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