How Measuring Happiness Helped Us Build a Better Team

Happy workers are more productive. Some of you will name me Captain Obvious, as you feel it in the guts. Other may have already stumbled upon research that proves that.

But there also may be those who will say – business is not about making people happy, it’s about making money. And with those I will strongly disagree.

A happy client is the ultimate goal of a business. Money comes as a result of the former, since it will be the happy client who will pay you, recommend you to his friends and business partners, and will come back with his next idea to implement.

Happy team

Happy team is productive team. They will not contemplate the reasons why they are unhappy and will be able to focus on delivering. They will more eagerly help and support each other and it’s obviously more pleasant to work with happy people and stay motivated (you should take a look at our CEO’s conclusion after the search for a way to motivate the team). Happy team is also a sustainable team – you move one of the main reasons for quitting out of the way. Happy team members will be more empathetic to one another, and to the client, and more willing to deliver the best customer service.

Measuring happiness

But how to find out if your team is happy? Don’t guess. Just ask.

Some people are less expressive with their mood, so you won’t notice that something is wrong until they explode with what was boiling inside of them for weeks. Others are very expressive, sometimes looking as if their mood changed from calm and lazy Sunday morning to a storm within a second, yet when you will ask them, they will tell you it’s ok, no reason to worry. Therefore, don’t make assumptions – ask.

During the last two projects I worked on, I have introduced the so-called Niko Niko calendar.

Niko comes from Japanese word for smiley, and that’s the core of the calendar idea – at a specified time every day each team member marks on a calendar his mood with either a happy, neutral or sad smiley. This calendar is part of our project board and sits right there in sight, next to the project burn up chart, so that it can’t go unnoticed and everybody in the DeSmart team can come and check the mood of our project team.

We usually mark the mood for the previous day during the daily Scrum meeting with which we start each workday. Why during Scrum? Since it’s when we are gathered all together, and we kind of wrap up the last day of work and start the new day, it is a time when we can address the reasons for the unhappy mood.

Yes, it helps!

Within our team it has helped a lot to diffuse tension or notice things that would have been overlooked otherwise. It is not uncommon to hear questions like “Why so black?!” when I mark a 3rd day in a row with a “so so” smiley or have the team demanding “Explain!” when somebody puts a red sad face on the board. It starts the discussion, so we can all together do something about the elephant sitting in the room.

Of course there are risks that some people may be affected by the mood of other people, or hide their real mood to avoid those questions as they may not feel comfortable answering them – but this is more of a problem of trust and values shared by the team. Niko calendar is just a tool.

When we found out about this tool, we didn’t take the positive impact of the Niko calendar for granted. We decided to give it a try – it costs nothing – and we liked it.

Why don’t you check this out for yourself and share your story of team happiness?

To make it easier for you to start, we have prepared this template for 2 weekly sprints or 1 two-week longer sprint.

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