The Happiness Index is a pattern taken from Jeff Sutherlands paper ‘Teams That Finish Early Accelerate Faster’ I implemented the pattern with a team a couple of years ago and found it to be a very useful metric. I’m a strong believer in human centred behavioural metrics which inform intelligent decision making.

The Happiness Metric accurately told a story of 6 or 7 months on our team where we encountered a situation where the current backlog we were working on got pulled just prior to release and we went in to a Waterfa(i)ll style 3-4 month  traditional discovery phase.

The way I facilitated this with the team was at the end of the retro I stuck two post-its outside the room with “How happy are you with the company?” and “How happy are you with your role?” on them and asked everyone to stick post it’s underneath on a scale of 1(low) to 5(high) on their way out the room.


The output was tracked on a spreadsheet and then visualised  in a basic graph.


What is interesting is that the happiness of the team with their roles was substantially more resilient than their feelings about the company. We were a tight knit team and this shows the importance of strong team relationships which can sustain the team through tough times. The Sprints were 2 week iterations so from Sprint 6 to Sprint 01 represents about 5 months. Although every team is different, this empirical data would suggest a mature ‘healthy’ team can support a 4 to 5 month rough patch before losing motivation in their role. In this case a traditional project discovery phase was managed in a typically top down way and left the team in a perpetual spike cycle with no output except for estimates against a growing and churning backlog.

With the index as evidence I worked with the team running workshops and challenging the traditional project management approach to give them hope that there was an end in sight. The knowledge of how the team felt enabled me to adjust my coaching strategy accordingly.

I would suggest that you consider adopting a metric of this nature.

A note on Metrics:

When applying the rule ‘you improve what you measure‘ as distinct from the over used Peter Drucker quote ‘If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it’, you need to be wary of the negative scenario this creates; in other words whilst you concentrate efforts on improving your measured metric you are likely getting worse in an area that is not being focused on.