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Try The Happiness Index As An Agile Retrospective Tool

by Luís Gonçalves
happiness index

In this post, I will explain the exercise Happiness Index. This exercise can be found in the book: “Getting Value out of Agile Retrospectives”, a book written by Ben Linders and me with the foreword from Esther Derby. The book can be downloaded by free in or, please download it and spread it within your colleagues.


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This exercise is a combination of “Develop a timeline” and “Emotions Seismograph” from Norman L. Kerth.

If you are interested in getting some extra Agile Retrospectives exercises, I created a blog post with dozens of Agile Retrospectives Ideas, check them and see if you find something interesting.

What can you expect to get out of this technique
The purpose of this exercise is to draw a graphic representation of team members´ emotions during sprints, connecting their emotions to sprint events. With this kind of information, the team can identify what exactly affects its performance during the sprint. For example, if they have some problems with the build server, most probably the mood will drop because of the team frustration not being able to proceed with the work. This kind of exercise is a great way to represent team emotions within the sprint.

When you would use this technique
I believe this technique is quite simple and does not require any special occasion. Although, it might be suitable for situations when a team has many different emotions within the sprint, and they wish to analyse the consequences, or when the team has several challenges within the sprint and would like to understand better when and how the issues appeared.

Happiness Index is suitable for any team; it does not require any specific level of maturity.

How to do it
To perform this exercise, you simply need an A4 white sheet and some post-it notes. Start by dividing the sheet into two parts, having a positive and negative axis. After, share the X axis in the number of days that your sprint has.

There are two ways of doing this exercise:

1) The exercise is done within the retrospective itself with all the team
2) The exercise is done in small pieces during the sprint

Let´s start with the first option, create small groups of 2 or 3 persons. Ask them to do a small brainstorming session and let them think about all the events that occurred during the sprint. Afterwards, ask them to create a graphic showing emotion levels with events occurred during the sprint. When all groups are done, create a representation of all small groups in a single graphic. Do not forget to put an explanation of each different emotion.

For the second option, instead of the team drawing the graphic in the retrospective, each person will draw his emotion level at the end of each work day. This approach will make sure that all events are covered and not forgotten.

Using one way or another, we will have a fantastic picture of what happened during the sprint. With this kind of information, a facilitator can help the team to identify events that should be repeated and events that cause a delay in the team. The root of problems can be found using normal cause analyses techniques.

With the right imagination, this exercise can be applied to remote teams as well. Being collocated is not a requirement to run this exercise.

Please leave your comments, all your comments and ideas will help me to improve the exercise and the book.


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Luís Gonçalves

About Luís Gonçalves

Luis Gonçalves is an Entrepreneur, Author & International Keynote Speaker that works exclusively with Senior Executives of 7 to 8 figure businesses on the deployment of his game changing ‘Organisational Mastery’ Methodology.


Share your point of view

  1. Hi Guys: Yes, this is a commonly used exercise. Best when there is a neutral, trustedbfacilitator. Just a quick note on this

    > Happiness Index is suitable for any team, it does not require any specific level of maturity.

    Hmm. Safety seems an issue here, which (it is true) cannot benassumed to correlate to team maturity. Still, for a team with all/some feeling low “safety” to speak frankly, this could be stressful, or even misleading.

    I would suggest, unless the facilitator is certain of having a team that’s comfortable with the vulnerability of sharing negative emotions, a safety check exercise be done first, and if safety is mid-to-low, quickly followed by a “how can we make it safer?” exercise. I believe Norm has such an exercisein his book… if you don’t find it I can dig it up. Or perhaps you cover this in another way in your book?

    Also, you might suggest a couple of other ways to phrase the question to avoid the word “emotion” or “feelings” in a culture where this is uncomfortable. For example, using the word “mood” might be useful, or “energy” or “fun” (depending on the group).

    Keep up the good work!

    1. Actually you brought a really great point.

      I was assuming that people trust each other but some times when team is new that is not the case, really good point thanks for point that out,