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Happiness is a key quality indicator for team members

Rik Marselis
August 09, 2023

When talking about indicators most people are inclined to think about measuring data (for example using automated tools) and use that data for decision-making. When looking into the performance of a team, of course hard data may be helpful. However, “soft” indicators such as happiness of the team members is at least as important.

In this blog we’ll see what happiness actually is, how you can measure it and, most importantly, how to improve it.

(This is the fifteenth blog in the series “How to train cross-functional teams”, for links to previous blogs please go to the end of this blog)

What is happiness?

Happiness is when someone has a feeling of content, being pleased, having joy and satisfaction. So, it also includes being in a good mood. People with such mood perform better than unhappy people. That is because happy people are in a good flow, are less distracted by other things and find it easier to collaborate with their fellow team members. Happy people have better communication and make less mistakes. Happiness is contagious which makes that happy team members seldom have arguments or quarrels.

Indicators that show quality and are a basis to improve

When talking about quality that supports the business value in an organization, we know that this is a combination of the quality of Products, Processes and People (the 3 P’s). Measuring quality is done using indicators. TMAP describes dozens of examples of indicators. Still many people involved in measuring quality find it hard to measure the quality of people. This is because various indicators cannot be measures automatically using data from a system. Instead, the source for measuring these indicators are the people themselves.

A straightforward and practical way to measure happiness as an indicator for the quality of people and teams, is to ask people’s opinion using a questionnaire.

The value of happiness

Still some people (mainly managers) may wonder: “Why bother about happiness of people and teams?”

Most importantly happiness doesn’t only influence the way people work, but also improves the IT delivery process as a whole and thus the quality of the products that are delivered. So, improving the happiness of people actually improves the IT delivery process and the products that support the business processes.

The flip side of this is that unhappy people often have more stress which reduces the quality of their thinking and thus negatively influences the quality of their deliverables.

How to improve happiness?

The theory of Abraham Maslow is about the hierarchy of needs. Maslow’s pyramid is a theory of motivation which states that five categories of human needs dictate an individual’s behavior. Those needs are physiological needs (food), safety needs (house), love and belonging needs (affection), esteem needs (appreciation), and self-actualization needs (success).

The physiological and safety needs are pre-conditions that just need to be in place, they don’t make people happy, but when they are not in place people will become unhappy.

The other needs of Maslow’s pyramid, when fulfilled, will really improve the happiness of people.

An important factor is to improve the team dynamics, which will support the team to work well. But if it doesn’t, don’t hesitate to change the team. Because it has been proven over and over again that some people are not compatible, and by acknowledging this a lot of problems can be prevented.

Coaching and mentoring team members explicitly on team behavior is also very important to positively influence the happiness.

To trigger the esteem and self-actualization needs, challenge people to do things they have never done. When they succeed this will fill them with joy.

For a team to work well, make sure the team has honest and open communication in a positive and constructive way. Psychological safety is key here. Because when there is no open communication people tend to guess the others feelings and often guess wrongly which increases miscommunication and feelings of unhappiness.

A simple tool that supports, in a situation where people are open, is to have them wear a feeling-button that shows texts like “I want to talk a lot”, “leave me alone”, “I’m feeling sad today”, “etc.” so that team members easily know how to adjust their behavior. A similar tool are flags on the table, for example “don’t disturb” in an open office.

Conclusion

Why should we care about happiness?

Because happy people perform better and bring more value to a company. And it’s more fun!!

What do you do to improve happiness in your team(s)?

Please, let us know in the comments below!

Eva Holmquist is senior test specialist at Sogeti in Sweden.

Rik Marselis is principal quality consultant at Sogeti in the Netherlands.

(For other blogs in the series “How to train cross-functional teams”, use this link: https://labs.sogeti.com/training-cross-functional-teams/.)

About the author

Quality and Testing expert | Netherlands
Rik Marselis is principal quality consultant at Sogeti in the Netherlands. He has assisted many organizations in improving their IT-processes, in establishing their quality & testing approach, setting up their quality & test organization, and he acted as quality coach, qa-consultant, test manager and quality supervisor.

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