Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Happiness Metric - The Wave of the Future

The Happiness Online Course archive is available.
Nöjd Crispare Historik

... any investor should be able to measure its return, and now a group of U.K. researchers say they've provided the first scientifically-controlled evidence of the link between human happiness and productivity: Happier people are about 12% more productive, the study found.

The results, to be published in the Journal of Labor Economics, are based on four different experiments that employed a variety of tactics on a total of 713 subjects at an elite British university. See article ...
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.

Nöjd Crispare Index

 Here are the columns:

  • Name
  • 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
We chart the history and how it correlates to specific events and bring this data to our conference.

Nöjd Crispare HistorikWhenever 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


Laszlo said...

This is great. Thanks for sharing this one Jeff

Laszlo S.

:^{)} Koontz said...

Very interesting - great metric.

Think globally - act locally.

Explore the Happy Planet Index


TomG said...

The Uk prime Minister Cameron is introducing a happiness metric too. See Bhutan happiness for history.

TomG said...

The Uk prime Minister Cameron is introducing a happiness metric too. See Bhutan happiness for history.

Kai said...

what you measure get done !-)

Kai Gilb

Niklas said...

We introduced a fun index two years ago, before Crisp helped us move to Scrum, just to catch any differences in how people felt about work. And yes, there were differences. Mostly positive, but some really negative also...

3rd guy to the left said...

Quite reassuring to read this. I was thinking along the same lines when I posted this : http://subabo.wordpress.com/2010/01/08/agile-and-happiness/


Mathias Iversen said...

Thank you for sharing this. It really inspires me to see and hear about companies who in my opinion manage to see what is really importamt. What can possible be more important than happiness? Happiness beats profit because happiness is profit. Beautiful!

Have a beautiful day out there
Mathias Iversen

Mathias Iversen said...

Thank you for sharing this. It really inspires me to see and hear about companies who in my opinion manage to see what is really importamt. What can possible be more important than happiness? Happiness beats profit because happiness is profit. Beautiful!

Have a beautiful day out there
Mathias Iversen

Yvette said...

Very interesting! Just saw the positivity keynote at Agile 2011: http://searchsoftwarequality.techtarget.com/news/2240039401/Positive-psychology-on-Agile-teams

Obviously, happy employees mean good business.

Maybe we can talk more about this? BTW, thanks, too for your interview for us!


henry said...

Underscores the importance of not only conducting a good retrospective to identify and quantify the impact of an impediment or "less than effective" practice, it also reminds us that a clear delineation of the problem and its solution, including specific assignment to someone (as a Story for the next Sprint) who will make sure that it is followed through to completion, and measurement, is essential to kaizen.

What gets specifically assigned gets done, and what is measured improves.


Great post Jeff, thanks.

DulceMaria said...

This is great. Thanks for sharing this one Jeff The Uk prime Minister Cameron is introducing a happiness metric too. See Bhutan happiness for history. jejejeje

Chris said...

I really love this topic and it inspired me to build a small tool to measure your happiness.


I'd like to hear your feedback.

Ben Linders said...

Glad to see that you are giving more exposure to happiness, and also show that it's measurable. The Happiness metric can help to discuss anything that frustrates professionals, and to deal with it and get it out of their way.

Professionals enjoy their work, and enjoy being able to deliver results, customers get better products earlier. Everybody wins!

Amanda Dahl Goodson said...

I've tried a happiness exercise with my team:


but found that it didn't really give us a concrete set of actions, and was more of a general feeling of team morale. Does this technique offer insight into how to turn that general feeling into actions?

Jake Vizner said...

Are there any other leading indicators other folks use? Thanks

everydayagile said...

Hi Jeff, I don't see this as any different from "what would you like to change?" or "what would you like to improve?", which are standard retrospective discussion points in whatever way you phrase the questions. Asking purely “are you happy?” could lead to people that are inherently unhappy or those who are happy regardless of circumstances giving skewed results, the world happiness report alludes to this as well. Therefore I would argue that happiness is further removed from “what would you like to change” unless it is specifically added to a timeframe. In regards to change I would expect those things that people want to change to yield positive mental results anyway making them happier. The example of “we want better quality stories” an example found using happiness has already surfaced from “what would you like to change” in my company without any reference to happiness. There also seems to be a suggestion that we’d pick up lower “time \ cost” benefit items if they made people happier as people would work harder? Is this your understanding?
I also have an issue with grouped stats which could lead us to draw incorrect conclusions (like everyone’s working too many hours) instead of our software environments aren’t working or the product owners are unavailable or worse multiple root causes happening at the same time. Surely finding the root cause of individual issues is the key to success?
So what would you do if everything was a mess but everyone was “happy”? I’d like to implement this on a large scale in our company but I’m unconvinced there’s a good way to do this at the moment or that this is the right thing to do. Is this adding another ceremony like the current retrospectives? With Crisps method it tracks deviations away from an average; this seems a worse idea than retrospectives as averages can still hide major issues.
Thanks, Tim

Jeff Sutherland said...

For us, the Happiness Metric is used to cut the retrospective to half the time and find a better kaizen consistently. It generates an average 10% increase in velocity sprint to sprint. I've seen no other retrospective that does that. The Happiness Metric is a pattern, not part of the Scrum Guide. Use is optional.

Smith said...

really very interesting,The level of happiness says quite a lot about a group and how well everything is going regarding its goals.
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