Happy or not?

Tracking the mood of the team is something that agile practitioners are doing for quite a long time. For example, in 2006, Akinori Sakata, explained in this article the use of Niko-niko calendar.

The idea is to tighten the feedback loop, and to detect problems even before they become really conscious to an individual, or to the team.

By exploring how we feel at the end of the day, it helps us to take a step back, and sometime to express what is not going well from our point of view.

So, I used it for teams, co-localized or distributed, for quite some time. The tooling is really simple if you only want to deal with the mood of one team.

At some point, I wanted to expand this to track the mood of an entire company, so we could be able to get more feedback, and to adapt what we were doing.

I had a look at what was on the market, and at this time, hppy.com provided a tool to allow a quick feedback using a smiley ( 🙂 😐 🙁 ) and to leave a short text message associated to that.

There’s now a lot of tools on the market that are exploring employee engagement, like Niko-Niko or Happify.

Is it a tooling problem?

Obviously the quality of the tool you will use, will have an impact on your ability to run analysis, or to scale the mood measurement, but my take after several experiments is that it’s not a tooling problem.

It’s how you will take into account the feedback and act accordingly.



You could also be interested in this article Manage Your Emotional Culture published in the Harvard Business Review at the beginning of the year.




Sequence vs Priority

There’s sometimes conversations within teams about the responsibility of prioritization of backlog items.

The problems is the end result of this conversation. Whoever could have this responsibility, that could be the Product Owner or that could be an agreement within the team, the results will look like:

  • 80% of the items in priority 1
  • 15% in priority 2
  • 5% in priority 3

That leads to end-less discussion to find what could be priority 1, 2 or 3, and that’s not really helping to decide by what we need to start the first iteration, and what could be the meaning of it, and what could be the meaning of the next marketing release.

Near the planned date of the marketing release, people starts to worry about the priority 1 items that could not be included in the release. Suddenly the meaning of priority 1 became “must land in the release”, and people are focused and what will not land, instead of what will land in the release.

That’s the reason why I am trying to avoid the “priority” word. Instead I am asking in which sequence the items should be delivered. I am interested in the sequence of the items that could be included in the next 2 iterations. What could be the meaning of the iterations, and what could be the meaning of the release for the product and its users. It’s not priority, it’s a sequence.

Another illustration of sequence versus priority is the way the airlines are boarding their plane. Some of the airline are boarding first the business class and give a “priority” access to frequent flyers. That’s not solving the problem of boarding a plane as fast as possible. During my last visit in Austin, I have seen that Southwest Airline, organize the boarding in sequence with indicators inside the boarding terminal. This is a better attempt to fix the system.

That means that we need a tool that is able to record that sequence. A wall with post-its can do that. Most of the task/project tracker are not able to do that.


Header picture from Ryan McGuire.

What science knows about happiness that could tranform OpenStack

A short article to publish the video recording and the slides of the talk I gave today at the OpenStack summit in Austin.



Header picture is from Ryan McGuire.

The after meeting feedback

I usually ask for feedback regularly during the meeting I facilitate. I use several techniques to do so depending if it’s a short feedback before a break or if we have more time at the end of the meeting.

One of those techniques is the ROTI, the Return On Time Invested.

I ask the participant to evaluate with their 5 fingers. If their time was well invested: 5 if their time was well invested, they have learned and contributed, 1 if it was not the place they should have been. I am asking them to answer the question all at the same time.
The name itself should led the participants to understand that I am asking them to value the investment of their time. I am not asking them to evaluate me, or to give me a grade. But it’s not necessarily working this way each time.

One thing I have tried after listening to Heiko Fischer is to tweak the question a little bit.

I am asking the participants to evaluate how the meeting was awesome on a scale
from 1 to 5?

I let the people being cynical about it…

And then ask a second question: On a scale from 1 to 5 how did you contribute to make this an awesome meeting?

The learning there is that there’s no magic, the meeting is a result of our commitment.

Obviously, it’s not needed in all environments, but sometimes it could be useful.



Header picture by Ryan McGuire.

Beyond Measure

Beyond Measure: The Big Impact of Small Changes is a book by Margaret Heffernan published by TED.

And it starts with:


The author suggests an exercise for team members. Form pairs in which one will ask a real question and listen for 5 minutes: “Who you really are?”, “What do you want in life?”. Silent listening, maintaining eye contact for 5 minutes is a great exercise. And then we switch role for another 5 minutes.

I already tried similar exercises using appreciative inquiry to start workshop or training with people that doesn’t know each other really well. I can attest this is really efficient!

Trust between team members is a prerequisite to develop our ability to talk about our mistakes, and to develop our ability to learn from those mistakes. This foundation for effective teams is also covered in this article: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

Social capital

Margaret introduce the notion of social capital with:

“The dynamic between people is what brings organization to life.”

She explains the importance of the time spent together at work, during breaks or lunch. She gives an example of the decision to synchronize breaks in a call center that dramatically improved the performance.


If some time needs to be dedicated to interactions between people, quite time needs to be organized to allow concentration. I already covered this topic in a previous article: Let us Code. One of the example given is a scientific study that shows the danger of multitasking. People are shown a video recording – in a typical news channel format – of a CEO explaining the strategy of a company. People are told to focus their attention to the sequence as there will be some questions to answer after that. They have been asked to give their opinion about the strategy… And if they were able to remember some information, together with not relevant ones about weather, stock quotes, other news alerts, that were displayed on the multiple banners… They were totally unable to criticize the strategy. The conclusion of the study was that multitasking prevents us to think. Quite scary if we think about who are the people addicted to multitasking in organizations.


The author also quotes other studies on work day duration (more than 11 hours a day lead to depression) or necessity for the brain to rest at least for 7 or 8 hours a day (less lead to reducing the ability to think).


Margaret explains the Pygmalion effect: expect great things, and they will more probably happen. This reminds us the importance to define ambitious goals, and to believe in the ability of people to reach those goals.

She encourages also to get rid of silos, and to empower people, to accept that leadership needs to be fluid, linked to skills and not to titles and ranks… Title and ranks could lead a part of the people (unfortunately the majority) to think that they are not good enough… And the Pygmalion effect will play in a bad way.

She recommends to people to choose to make some space for their contribution, even if it’s not their job or their role, just because it’s their life.

The author also gives the example of check lists, that reduced by a third mortality in hospitals as a way to take the power from a few to empower the many. This has been covered in another article: Black Box.

When we accept that there are talented people everywhere, people will think not only about the work to be done, but why we need to do it, and how to do it.

When you have done what is needed, Ask yourself what one more thing you could do to make those people happy?

A book to read (or to listen) and you could start with a TED conference given by the author:


La photo d’entête est de Ryan McGuire.

I am still standing

Some time ago, I add a card in the inbox column of my personal GTD kanban board (I can share the model if needed). The card was labeled “Standing Desk”.

During the next review, I moved this card in the “Someday / Maybe” column. And the card sat there for… nearly ever.

During the same week several factors made me reconsider this card:

  • I had skipped some breaks during the days, and forgot to change posture, so my back started to hurt a little
  • Colleagues at work were discussing the idea to buy standing desk and they did it and report that they were happy 🙂 (Thank you Mark and Hugh!)


So, I moved the card directly to the to do this week column, look at the options and decided to change my whole desk (I bought the previous one 20 years ago) and chose the IKEA Berkan model.

With this desk I can have my whole set-up moving. The first week, I thought it will really help me to “not forget breaks” and to “not forget to change posture” as it was difficult for me to stand for long, so I alternate sitting and standing position during the day.

2016-03-22 07.29.17 2016-03-22 07.30.03After 2 weeks, I can stand longer, the cat is using my chair, and I need to be sure to start my pomodoro timer to remember to have a break and to change posture. The fact to stand has a good impact on my numerous conference call during the day: I am able to close the call faster. The same effect that leads to decide that a daily synchronization meeting should be done standing up, this way it could be shorter (There’s a study on that effect here).

I recommend you to test, and you will probably adopt it!


The day I received my IKEA desk, Lisette Sutherland published a post showing her desk, probably the same model in another size! By the way, if you are interested in collaboration and remote work, follow her!



Header picture is from Ryan McGuire.

Let us code!

I started this article a long time ago. And that’s a comment from a person I work with that triggered the sense of urgency to contribute to solve this problem. He said:

Stop interrupting us! Let us code!

I became sensitive to interruptions when I discovered the Pomodoro method, subject that I covered in this article.

I experimented that, when I was able to focus on one thing, I was extremely efficient. Though, I tried to influence people in teams I worked with to preserve periods of time without interruption.

People easily identify others as interruption sources. It is usually something easy to cover with a team to find agreements to stop the interruption flows and stop the downside of them.

It’s more difficult to admit that we are our own source of interruption. We start something, get caught by a notification, our mind wanders and takes us somewhere else… We need a strong commitment to resist to the multiple temptations to quit what we are doing for something else.

The problems became major with a distributed team.

With colocated teams, I experimented 2 strategies:

  • The first one is to adopt a sign on the desk meaning that the person wish not to be interrupted (a funny puppet for example)
  • The second is to synchronize the team on the same schedule: 50 minutes of work without interruption, 10 minutes break, 15 minutes for interruptions, and so on, with a bigger break for lunch.

Synchronization is the most efficient strategy, but it’s also the most demanding one for team members.

With a distributed team, the connection is established through electronic communication means. You can observe some tacit agreement that you need to answer fast to solicitations by email, and faster to solicitations on chat rooms (irc, jabber, slack or others).

If you agree with that, you can spend your whole day jumping from one subject to another without really accomplish something.

LarryKim-MultitaskingThe illustration on the right is coming from Larry Kim’s article multitasking is lilling your brain and it explains quite well the situation.

Our overall satisfaction will suffer from those constant context switch. Furthermore, each time we will try to go back to a task, it’s highly probable that we will need a lot of time to re-gain the level of understanding of the problem we had when we left this task.

MikeCohn-ContextSwitchingIn his book Succeeding With Agile, Mike Cohn quotes the study from Kim Clark and Steven Wheelwright on the impact of multitasking on productivity that are shown on the graphic above.

In an organization where the work is distributed by managers and where the managers convey the pressure of instant response, the time wasted by permanent asks will paralyze the whole organization. This is why some small teams of 10 can achieve more than teams of 300 letting bigger organizations questioning themselves.

The phenomenon will be less important in an organization where the work is distributed by the system, an organization in which each team member knows what he/she needs to take after a completed task.


Funny synchronicity, Jason Fried published an article on the same subject on Medium when I was writing this one. He suggests some ways to change the agreement on the use of communication tools that are important.

My recommendation would be to invest some time with the team to refine:

  • the use of communication tools: what needs to be covered by email, by instant messaging, on chat room, or what needs to be covered with share documents that will help to build a common position. In each case we need to define what are the agreed reaction delay
  • the way to protect each individual from interruptions: by accepting unavailability period, by synchronizing the whole team on the same schedule (more difficult if you are on several timezone), by dedicating people for a period of time to handle interruptions that we cannot avoid
  • to play a game to understand the power of focus (like the name game)

And about you, what are your strategies to let the people that are working with you to do their work?


Header picture is from Ryan McGuire.