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Should Agile Equal Being Happy?

Reading: Should Agile Equal Being Happy?

Ever had a conversation with someone about what they thought “being” Agile meant?  I was having that conversation today.  The other guy said he was surprised that he isn’t happier.  I asked him to help me understand what he meant by that.

An Agile team should be happy

Someone, somewhere, convinced this fellow that the Manifesto for Agile Software Development included life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The Reality

I feel he was misguided, just like all of those other people who think that if you’re on an Agile team then you don’t plan, you don’t test, or you don’t document. The ideas like Agile is all teddy bears and rainbows has somehow spread to the far reaches of the Agile community.

When asked if Agile makes me happy, my response was simple.


My Perspective

Being an Agile coach, leading Agile transformations, and helping customers reach their potential does not make me happy.  It leaves me with a feeling of satisfaction.  Much like mowing my lawn every weekend in summer, it doesn’t make me happy. But, when I am done with the task at hand, I look at what I have accomplished and I feel satisfaction.  Isn’t that a more realistic goal? The pursuit of satisfaction, as it relates to work?  Happiness is an emotional state that I reserve to my personal life, when I combine satisfaction from my work and positive emotions in my off-time.

Is the goal of happiness within an Agile team misguided?

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Comments (3)

  1. Christian Hujer

    The distinction between satisfaction and happiness explains a lot, but I don’t think they’re entirely different or unrelated. Happiness can have many causes, and satisfaction is one of them. And the distinction might be more esoteric than most people’s thoughts and perceptions about happiness and satisfaction.

    A few years ago, my then boss told his staff “your job doesn’t need to make you happy”. I told him this was the most stupid thing that I’ve ever heard from him. The number of hours that we spend at work is far too high to dismiss a pursuit of happiness at the workplace just like that. I recommend people, if your job doesn’t make you happy, change something. And if that doesn’t help, change more.

    And there’s much more to this than just the pursuit of the goals of individuals. Happy workers are more productive. Many people cannot concentrate on their job if their head is full of worries and groans. We’re brain workers. It’s proven by psychologists that laughter supports learning, and we need to learn every day.

    I’m not saying it needs to be sunshine and rainbow every single day. The overall sum needs to be good. It’s like climbing a mountain. As Dan Ariely says, the stories of mountain climbing are horrible, it’s all about giving up, cold, frost bites. But (almost) everybody would do it again for the experiences gained on the way and the happiness that comes out of the satisfaction reaching the goal.

    • Derek Huether

      I think of happiness as a byproduct of being satisfied with my work. It doesn’t mean I can’t be happy at work. It’s just not my primary goal.
      I groaned when I read that your former boss told his staff “your job doesn’t need to make you happy.” He can think it but he doesn’t need to say it. There is no reason they can’t be happy. He shouldn’t have been so apathetic. I write this on a blog post, people will know what I’m thinking, but I don’t need to say it to their faces.
      I’ve lead retrospectives and also asked how satisfied (or happy) team members felt at different points of the release. I do think it’s a valuable input. I don’t want to ignore it.

      Thank you for you input.

  2. Larry Apke

    Derek- nice post. Satisfaction is a good measure. I would also suggest engagement. I recently posted on Gallup Poll on employee engagement, which is currently around 30%. I would certainly expect proper implementation of agile to increase employee engagement.


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