Update: The Happiness Webinar archive is available. We review the extensive research behind this topic.
ScrumInc used the happiness metric to help increase velocity over 500% in 2011. Net revenue doubled. The way to do this is now part of a formal pattern at ScrumPlop.org called "Scrumming the Scrum." Traveling around the world, the happiness metric keeps bubbling up as a topic of interest.
Books are starting to hit the charts at Amazon by business leaders (Zappos CEO, Joie de Vivre CEO) and psychologists. Managers and consultants are telling me that people are getting fed up with being unhappy at work. Younger people in particular are refusing to work in command and control environments based on punishment and blame. Major change is emerging (see The Leaders Guide to Radical Management by Stephen Denning). The Harvard Business Review devoted a recent issue to Happiness because happy employees lead to happy customers and better business. However, never underestimate the human capacity for screwing things up. See HBR blog on "Happiness is Overrated." You might need to "Pop the Happy Bubble," a pattern designed to straighten things out when your team is oblivious to impediments.
The Scrum Papers documents some of the early influences on Scrum and Nobel Laureate Professor Yunus at the Grameen Bank in Bangledesh provided key insights on how to bootstrap teams into a better life. Practical work on these issues on the President's Council at Accion helped me put these insights into practice just prior to the creation of Scrum in 1993. I saw how to bootstrap developers out of an environment where they were always late and under pressure into a team experience that could change their life.
One of the most innovative companies in the world of Scrum is a consultancy in Stockholm called Crisp. Henrik Kniberg is the founder and we have worked together on Scrum and Lean for many years. He recently introduced the "happiness index" as the primary metric to drive his company and found it works better than any other metric as a forward indicator of revenue.
Henrik outlines on his blog how he used the A3 process to set the direction for his company and how that led to measuring company performance by the "Happy Crisper Index."
Now a days one our primary metric is "Nöjd Crispare Index" (in english: "Happy Crisper Index" or "Crisp happiness index"). Scale is 1-5. We measure this continuously through a live Google Spreadsheet. People update it approximately once per month.
Here are the columns:
- How happy are you with Crisp? (scale 1-5)
- Last update of this row (timestamp)
- What feels best right now?
- What feels worst right now?
- What would increase your happiness index?
- Other comments
Whenever the average changes significantly we talk about why, and what we can do to make everybody happier. If we see a 1 or 2 on any row, that acts as an effective call for help. People go out of their way to find out how they can help that person, which often results in some kind of process improvement in the company. This happened last week, one person dropped to a 1 due to confusion and frustration with our internal invoicing routines. Within a week we did a workshop and figured out a better process. The company improved and the Crisp Happiness Index increased.
Crisp Happiness Index is more important than any financial metric, not only because it visualizes the aspect that matters most to us, but also because it is a leading indicator, which makes us agile. Most financial metrics are trailing indicators, making it hard to react to change in time.
As Dan Pink points out in his RSA talk, people are motivated by autonomy, purpose, and mastery. Takeuchi and Nonaka observed in the paper that launched Scrum that great teams exhibit autonomy, transcendence, and cross-fertilization. The "happiness metric" along with some A3 thinking helped flush out these issues at Crisp and it can work for your company.
At the core of the creation of Scrum was a daily meditation based on 30 years of practice beginning as a fighter pilot during the Vietnamese war. It is a good practice for a warrior and for Scrum as changing the way of working in companies all over the world is a mighty struggle. May all your projects be early, may all your customers be happy, and may all your teams be free of impediments!
"May all beings be well, may all beings be happy, may all beings be free from suffering."
- Compassion Meditation for a Time of War