Back to Blogs

Happiness = Success, Kryptonite to Dark Agile

  • Publish Date: Posted about 4 years ago
  • Author: Gervais Johnson

Happiness = Success, Kryptonite to Dark Agile

This is a continuation of my previous article on Dark Agile. This article will explore our first thread we will pull it through our Agile Ecosystem. The first thread is Happiness: the measure of our state of well-being at work, our mindfulness of us and our people interactions. This thread is critical and provides us the energy to identify and remove the anti-patterns of Dark Agile. I would argue this is the foundation of our intrinsic motivation. 

Happiness = Success, Kryptonite to Dark Agile

The Agile Ecosystem (above) illustrates the Happiness thread that we can metaphorically pull, and see the impact and results of all four quadrants. Happiness within Agile Humanity drives high-performance and innovation by allowing us to flawlessly execute the Agile Practices and Tools within our adaptive interior Organization and Culture, optimizing the constraints and disruptions of our Environment(s). Happiness is the great Agile Adoption harmonizer and drives our collective and individual success.

Research and practical experience indicate a direct correlation between team happiness and outstanding results. The outstanding results we see are within organizational effectiveness, customer satisfaction and customer life expectancy, top talent attainment and retention, and business financial success. Some research results can be found at Happiness Research Institute and HBR Article.

Scrum Inc. provided some insight into Happiness and Agile, quoted below, and more information can be found at Happiness Metric the Wave of the Future.

"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. 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."

Jurgen Appelo (Management 3.0 / Managing for Happiness) has started a happiness group you can join,Happy Melly. Jurgen has an approach and set of practices that can be applied to sustain happiness at work.

Relatively new businesses have solutions and tools around measuring and correlating happiness data. The CEO and Founder of Happiness Lab (TM), David Bellamy, is focusing on understanding and improving happiness at work. His research provides some interesting data to consider:

• 43% greater productivity (Hay Group)

• 33% higher profitability (Gallup)

• 37% increase in sales (Shawn Achor - Harvard)

• 300% more innovative (HBR)

• 51% lower staff turnover (Gallup)

• 66% lower sick leave (Forbes)

• 125% less burnout (HBR)

David Bellamy explains his approach and solution in the video below:

Today, even an individual country has a policy and measurement index for happiness: Gross National Happiness

There are many Happiness Games, practices, techniques, and tools that can be leveraged to help you identify happiness problems and maintain a certain level of happiness at work. However, I do not think one can have a work environment devoid of some unhappiness. Again, like the Dark Agile and Dark Matter metaphor used in the Dark Agile article, there is a similar dichotomy and continuum for Happiness and Not-So-Happy. As we know, some tension and anxiety is good and is needed to drive superior work results and innovation. So, we should expect a continuous work in progress for happiness at work.

As teams and organizations adopt Agile and become more transparent, more and more sub-optimal behaviors, processes, technologies, and overarching systematic problems become visible. This is common and we should be prepared for situations that arise from the Agile journey. The Agile Humanity quadrant, sometimes referred to as the Agile Mindset, is a good place to start enacting change. The first place to look is the mindset as a precondition to Agile success. There are some basic Agile Mindsets that help sustain happiness levels:

  • Attitude: Being positive more than negative. I am not saying be overly positive and superficially happy, but approach interactions and problems with a positive attitude.

  • Gratitude: Thank people that deserve it; talk to people and let them know you are happy because of something they did. Give a gift when it is warranted.

  • Humility: Demonstrate through your words and behavior that you do not know everything, you can learn, and you can work well with others. Be cognizant of how others view your contributions and how everyone is flawed.

  • Service: Look for opportunities to help others, be available and be present. Use your capabilities and skills to improve the team and the individual.

  • Fearless: Stretch yourself, take on hard things for you, and look for ways to expand your knowledge and passions.

  • Listen: Try not to talk all the time, and when someone else is talking, really listen to their words and emotions. Connect at the human level first, and then at the skill or project level.

  • Personal Health: Stay healthy. If you are sick, then the team may suffer with you. If you are not healthy, then you cannot perform at your best.

  • Safe: Feeling that your work environment is a safe place to share your authentic self, especially when it comes to identifying problems and suggesting solutions.

NOTE: The list above is similar to many that others have provided and related research results.

So, your team or organization is low on the happiness index. What can you do? One approach is you can run some experiments based on a specific hypothesis. For example:

  • Happiness Problem: Team indicators and conversations point to the Product Management team not following Agile values and principles. Specifically, demanding the team to finish everything by a date, not providing sufficient information, treating people poorly, not listening to the experts, and being absent from the process.

  • Hypothesis: If we change the Product Management individuals' mindset and behavior, the happiness index will improve.

  • Experiment: Obtain agreement with Product Management team to pair with the Agile Coach during the optimal Product Owner daily routine for the length of a Sprint...let's say two weeks. The Product Management team agrees to emulate the Agile Coach, and through the Agile Coach, makes decisions and interacts with the team. The Agile Coach is the filter and provides real-time mentoring and coaching to the Product Owners as needed. At the end of the Sprint, look at the velocity, the burndown chart, and other data including happiness index. Review the results during Retrospective where the Product Owner is present. Improvement in happiness index should be noted, but more importantly, increased quality work should have been accomplished. Determine length of mentoring and coaching, and if training is needed.

Retrospectives are a clear place to get an idea of team happiness levels and develop experiments to improve the level, especially if it is consistently low.

It is now the time to throw a caveat into the happiness science and measurement. So I leave you with the video below:

Please join our community as we focus on Agile, especially if you are in the San Francisco Bay Area: Gateway to Agile. On February 21, we will go into more detail on Agile and Happiness. Check our Periscope feed at #DarkAgile.

We will have many more threads to pull through the Agile Ecosystem as we progress, so stay tuned.

Notice: The Agile Ecosystem and Dark Agile is US trademarked as Impavid Agile.