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The Happiness Metric

The Happiness Metric is something that Jeff Sutherland introduces in his book ‘Scrum: The art of doing twice as much in half the time’. Jeff refers to it as one of his ‘secret weapon retros’ and although looking at ‘happiness’ can sound fluffy, the theory behind the line of questions is seriously compelling…

Research has shown that happiness in the present is directly correlated with team performance in the future. Quite simply: if you’re happy then you’ll collaborate more, create better products, seek out and implement ways to be more efficient, pay more attention to your customer and add more value overall. If you’re unhappy, the converse of the above takes place and ultimately you leave.

The Happiness Metric retrospective uncovers the barriers to team happiness and gets to the heart of the problem. If the team can discover their blocker, and take responsibility for fixing it, not only will they be happier coming to work each day but they’ll also deliver better results in the future.

Timing & Tools Required

  • 60-90 minutes depending on team size
  • Whiteboard or flipchart
  • Whiteboard pen or marker
  • Post-its
  • Pens for each of your team


  1. Hand out post-its and pens to every member of the team and ask them the following question: “On a scale of 1-5, how do you feel about your role in the company?”
  2. Once they’ve had a minute to write their score to the first question, ask them the following question: “On the same scale, how do you feel about the company as a whole?”
  3. They should now have two numbers on their post-its. One for each of the questions, on a scale of 1-5. The next step is to ask the team one by one to share their scores, and why they feel that way. This will require some good facilitation as it’ll be easy for discussions to arise and solutionising to begin. Your role is to make sure everyone gets an equal opportunity to share their scores and reasoning. If a conversation develops, simply capture the theme on a post-it and say it’s a great point and we’ll come back to it later.
  4. Once everyone has had a chance to share their scores and reasoning, ask them to grab a fresh post-it and write down their answer to the following question: “What one thing would make you happier next sprint?”
  5. Pin these post-its up on a board or flipchart and group them where appropriate.

Challenging Questions

There is not much need for questions during the first 5 stages of this retro, as it’s all about getting the team to unpack their own feelings. However, once you get to the last stage and you’re grouping the responses to “what one thing would make you happier next sprint”, it may be helpful to probe the team as you try and collate themes.Here are some easy examples:“What is the real issue here?”Great for getting straight to the root of a discussion, especially if the team are going round in circles over a theme.“Will this really make you happy or is there something a little deeper?”Helpful to tease out the root cause of the issue, rather than just addressing the symptoms of the problem.“Will this make a difference to the team as a whole or is it more for individuals?”Some happiness driving ideas may be great ideas, but only relevant to an individual. If it’s only for an individual, you can celebrate the idea and suggest that the individual takes the action away for themselves.“Is there anyone who hasn’t spoken on this theme yet that would like to contribute?”Offers an opportunity for the quieter members of the team to speak.


Getting ‘actions’ from a retrospective shouldn’t be the goal, but The Happiness Metric will naturally produce some great ideas for the team to improve their happiness. You can help the team clarify which ideas are within their control and draw their focus here, then if needed you can ask the team to vote for their favourite idea to drive happiness in the next sprint.

You should end up with a clear action for the team to take forward. Resist the urge to collect a number of actions - one good initiative is enough to make a difference and will prompt the team to focus on what really matters.Remember: your retrospective action should become the top priority item in your next sprint/on your backlog so that the team benefits the results as soon as possible!Keep focused, guide the team to their happiness and watch performance take care of itself.Enjoyed this retrospective? It is also available in our signature comic strip style for easy reading and sharing. View and download the pdf here.


  • "Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work In Half the Time" - Jeff Sutherland

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