Does Happiness Matter?

Apologies for the half finished nature of this post, please excuse me. I hope to update



With Scrum we talk about sustainable work. Not burning people out, even flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi gives a great Ted talk about this. Wikipedia defines Flow as “the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus”


Is flow enough to keep people happy? Should we focus on happiness or flow? Is happiness the right measurement? Almost certainly not, many people have tried to measure it in the past. Asking yourself the question “Are we happy” regularly has been noted to decrease happiness.



Kent Beck, tweeted recently “metrics are streetlights, illuminating the road ahead. by the time you get close, tho, you need to find the next one”. If happiness is not the metric we are looking for what is?



Jeff Sutherland observed that “a happy Scrum team typically improves velocity by 5-10% each sprint.” Clearly happiness then is a powerful thing and something which can be linked to output, productivity, value and ultimately the reason we are all in a job.


Art vs Science

Tony Robbins, says there is a science of achievement but an art of fulfillment. Using Scrum and Agile you could argue we are getting closer to mastering the science of achievement. Infact with hypothesis driven development we are very close to the scientific method shown below from wikipedia.




The reason I believe for using the word “Art” is to point out that what makes one thing or one team happy may not make another individual or team. Art as with beauty is in the eye of the beholder and we all have a different eye. What may seem the most beautiful perfect piece of art to someone may look awful to someone else. Geoff Watts explains this in his own great TED talk while talking about his sons picture.


In answer to my question does happiness matter definitely. Should we pursue happiness on its own probably not. Should we measure happiness in our teams yes, but i haven’t seen an elegant enough method yet.


For me focusing on the things which make me reach that state of flow such as sketch noting is something which is both productive but makes me happy.



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