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Matt Rueedlinger
Matt Rueedlinger

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How Happy is your Team or your Teammates?

Happiness Index as Conversation Starter in Retrospectives

I know there are plenty of resources, games and ideas how to start or structure a retrospective. For example:

But I personally like to start with a Happiness Index as an ice breaker activity. It gives you an overview what level of happiness the team currently has.

What is the Happiness Index?

Perhaps you may have heard of the World Happiness Report. The World Happiness Report is an annual survey of national happiness, which ranks countries by their happiness levels.

Basically it’s the same idea, but in this case every team member ranks how happy he was the last few days. As you can see this is very personal and must not necessarily correlate with the outcome of the last week, iteration, sprint, or whatever.

Collect the Data and Comment the Outliers

I usually start with the question “How happy are you?”. Every team member then has to rate the last days and put it on a sticky note. We use sticky notes to avoid a cognitive bias when evaluating the last few days.

 Happiness Index

I collect the sticky notes and write the rating on the flip chart. I use the rating form 6 to 1. Where 6 is the highest rating and 1 the lowest possible one. This leads to the following scale:

  • 6 (excellent),
  • 5 (good),
  • 4 (sufficient),
  • 3 (bad),
  • 2 (very bad) and
  • 1 (catastrophe).

I encourage the team to share with the others their motivations for their personal rating. My goal is that everybody has an understanding what let to that specific rating.

The interesting cases that should be mentioned are the outliers. For example these could be success stories, lessons learned or stories of struggles with some obstacles. I take some notes and put them on the flip chart, so that we are able to reconstruct what let to that specific rating.

As team we decide if we should continue and discus some ideas how to improve the happiness of team. This could be the case when the overall rating is very low or someone is not satisfied with the current situation and wants to find a solution together with the team. To get started with the discussion I usually ask “What could we do as a team to get a better rating?”.

If there are no urgent topics to address we continue with a common retrospective format like 4L, 3S, etc. (see


I like the Happiness Index because it is a good conversation starter, easy to execute and a handy tool to track how happy the team is over a specific period of time.

But the main point for me is that it gives everybody in the team the change to address personal issues or share success stories.

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