Let’s stop measuring happiness!

Since I’ve been working in Scrum Teams, I have seen that the happiness of team members is being measured. The reasons for this range from anywhere between “We just want to know how our team members are feeling” and “The happiness score is a hard target for the Scrum Master to achieve”. Regardless of the reason, I’ve learned that it’s really hard to measure it, which makes sense because there might be too many factors influencing the happiness of the team.

Let’s stop measuring happiness

Well, maybe not stop measuring it, but change our way of how we measure it. Any method to keep track of how your team is feeling is better than no method at all! However, the following usually happens when Scrum Teams try to measure happiness.

Timing

Scores are usually given by the team during the Scrum Retrospective. While this might seem like a logical time to do this, it greatly influences the score because the previous Sprint has just ended. Therefore, when the Sprint has gone well, Happiness scores will be a lot higher than when the Sprint didn’t really go as planned.

Why is this bad? Because you don’t want your team to score the last Sprint, you want to measure their happiness within the current project assignment, Scrum Team and Scrum process.

So, how to do it right? Just pick a time for measurement that is not closely connected to important meetings or events. For example; halfway through the Sprint.

Scoring

One thing that I’ve seen is a bad choice of the scale on which happiness is scored. Specifically a number from 1 through 5.

Why is this bad? Because there is a “safe” middle option, the 3. If people are in doubt about their score, they will always go for the easy option.

So, how to do it right? With a scale of 1 through 4, or 1 through 6, will force them to think about how they really feel. This way, they should come up with better scores, and perhaps even good ideas to improve happiness in the future.

Asking the Right Question

The usual question when measuring happiness that I’ve experienced so far is “How happy are you?” or “How would you rate your happiness on this scale?”.

Why is this bad? Because that’s not what you want to know. Well, maybe you do, but you should not in this particular situation. Besides, it includes a lot of influencing factors what are out of the scope of the Scrum team. Maybe someone has had a really bad night, feels a bit sick, is stressed out because of an event that is not at all work related. You don’t want this to influence their scoring, because ideally, you want to be able to “fix” all the low scores by handling things differently in the team.

So, how to do it right? What we actually want to measure is “How happy are you with the current situation in the Scrum project, team, and process.” However, in this way you’re actually wanting them to score multiple things, which rises the problem of which questions to ask. Luckily you’re not the first one to wonder about this, so we’ll get back to that in a bit.

Let’s start measuring Team Morale

Instead of happiness, it may be better to measure Morale. This will involve asking a couple of specific questions instead of the one general question “Are you happy?”. So let’s look into these questions. While it’s possible to ask a wide array of questions, and allow specific scoring, I prefer the following “settings” as it keeps things clear and easy. At the same time, these questions and scores give enough information for you as a Scrum Team to actually do something about “bad grades”.

Good Timing

Make sure that the moment of measurement has nothing to do with the current Sprint, while at the same time collecting the information regularly. Try to measure the morale halfway through the Sprint, on a day with no other (important) team meetings.

Scoring

Try allowing scores from 1 through 6, which have the following meanings:

  1. Strongly Disagree
  2. Disagree
  3. Slightly Disagree
  4. Slightly Agree
  5. Agree
  6. Strongly Agree

This makes sure people think good enough about their answers, as it does not provide a “neutral” result. At the same time it gives enough options not to create a complete black/white image, because there are 3 “negative” and 3 “positive” scores.

Asking the Right Question

Again, you could go crazy here, and provide tens of questions to get really specific input and be able to pinpoint exactly where problems lie. We don’t want to do that, but neither do we want to stick with the one “Are you happy?” question. The following four questions allow for a nice in-between option. Just remember that you can always add more questions, or remove some of then, as long as it suits your team needs.

  1. In my team, I feel fit and strong;
  2. I am proud of the work that I do for my team;
  3. I am enthusiastic about the work that I do for my team;
  4. I find the work that I do for my team of meaning and purpose;

Putting it all together

While measuring the team happiness is a lot better than not measuring anything at all, there are better ways. Even ways that don’t necessarily need the team to do a long survey. So if you’re looking for more information than whether or not your team has had a good night’s sleep, or has just won the lottery… Give morale a chance, and make sure to share your thoughts!

 

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