Chart your happiness

We all know or at least we should know that retrospectives are one of the Agile recipe’s 11 secret herbs and spices. It performs a valuable role in the improvement of the team and its practices, as well as throwing up a whole host organisational issues. One step / practice when you are setting the scene in is the check-in.

The check-in is designed to get everyone talking and ensure that tacit approval is not given to stay quiet for the rest of the meeting. Over the years I have tried a number of practices to make this happen:

  • The sprint in one word
  • If the sprint was an animal what would it be
  • Fist of five
  • Christmas Haiku

All of these were sort of OK but always felt forced, recently I tried using a happiness histogram to kick-off the retrospective and this has worked really well. No longer does the check-in feel forced or sterile and the team like the way it works too.

The picture below shows last sprint’s histogram, it is located in our team room next to the retrospective board, you walk past it every time you leave the room.

chart showing team happiness

How it works:

  • Each team member has a sticky, ours are a lovely purple colour
  • Each person steps up to the chart and places their sticky
  • You must then describe why you put it where you did
  • If anything noteworthy comes from the reason, we discuss it there and then or postpone it for later in the retrospective (team choice)
  • The next person places their sticky if it has the same score then they place it above.

In conclusion the histogram as a tool has provided us with a simple way to get the team talking and rapidly judge if we need to change the focus of our retrospectives.

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Mike Lowery
5 Comments
  • Nice idea. Always preferable to start with a :) and, failing that, your idea goes right to the issues.

    October 23, 2012 at 8:49 am
  • Steph Cooper
    Reply

    Hi Mike – a great simple idea. I will be sure to steal it!

    On 23 October 2012 12:57, From the mouth, not always the brain of Mike

    October 31, 2012 at 5:08 am
  • Hi Mike!

    Thanks for writing this down! It was recommended to me to include into Retr-O-Mat and I did: http://plans-for-retrospectives.com/?id=59
    Hope you like it :)

    All the best, Corinna

    March 6, 2013 at 10:14 am
  • Megan L
    Reply

    Used this yesterday to test team sentiment for a big project where I was taking over from last PO. Worked incredibly well to set the scene and open up convo right from the start. Thanks Mike!

    July 3, 2015 at 1:55 pm

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