“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.”
― Ernest Hemingway
While trying to achieve high numbers and great results, we frequently forget that — for the time being, at least — all our work is not done by robots, but rather by real people. The efficiency of real people is absolutely impacted by their emotional state.
But how can one control the emotional state of a team? One can’t. Well, how can you track a team’s emotional state? If asked repeatedly throughout the day, such questions as “How was your day?” or “How are you doing?” will start feeling strange. In such situations, a team leader can adopt a mood calendar, or so-called Niko-Niko Calendar (Niko-cale), for team use. (It’s no surprise that Niko-Niko means “smiling” in Japanese.)
The Niko-Niko Calendar is one of the types of Agile tools that can be used to make employees’ moods, feelings, and emotions visible. Its format allows each and every employee and team member to chart the evolution of their mood throughout the day. Moods can be represented with a freehand emoji or a colorful sticker that corresponds with a general color scheme. For example, maybe the team has decided that red means a bad day, yellow means an average day, and green means a good day. By studying this calendar, one can assess the mood-changing trends of the entire team and each of its members.
In addition to having weekly team meetings, Distillery’s QA department has adopted the Niko-Niko Calendar. The practice is useful in many ways. As the team lead, I’m always aware of the team’s mood. Team members talk not only about their work, but also about their feelings, creating emotional connections that make the team even stronger. Furthermore, the calendar becomes a team game and experiment, making team meetings more memorable and engaging. Overall, the QA team has developed an emotional intelligence that helps them communicate their needs — both professional and personal — more effectively.
Another compelling reason the practice is useful? It can make important elements of team play, such as motivation and satisfaction with the working process, more objective. In the majority of working situations, such elements are considered strictly subjective entities that can’t be tracked or measured. The most important thing is to take the very first step toward quantitative evaluation, a step which the Niko-Niko Calendar makes possible. The measurement process doesn’t have to be extremely precise or perfect, because the more important need is to gain quantitative control over something that used to be strictly qualitative.
Imagine that, every Thursday, one of your employees draws a sad — or even crying — emoji. It happens every Thursday, week after week. The recurrence would start to look suspicious to you. It’s time to think, “Hey, something might be wrong on Thursdays,” isn’t it? As it turned out, in this real-life situation, one of the developers was continually postponing the time of a new functionality release, compelling the tester to stay in the office late each Thursday night to test the new build. While the tester was too shy to talk about the problem during retrospective meetings, the emotional calendar allowed discovery of the truth. The problem was solved.
By using the Niko-Niko Calendar with the QA department, I’ve been able to improve my team’s professional skills while also positively affecting their emotional well-being. As a result, they develop the motivation and the will to achieve ever greater accomplishments.
In relation to the development cycle, the Niko-Niko Calendar acts as a good seismograph of how the team feels about their progress during the sprint. To integrate the Niko-Niko Calendar, we create a table by the Scrum board that lists the days of the sprint across the top and the names of the team members down the side. The Niko-Niko Calendar quickly shows who’s having a good sprint and who’s not. It also quickly becomes obvious when team members are experiencing a series of frustrating periods and requiring help which they might not otherwise seek.
There’s good news for Jira users, too: The extension “Niko Calendar — Happy Agile Teams” provides users the ability to easily integrate the mood tracker with Jira.
To thrive as a team, we need to listen to each other and be as attentive as possible to each other’s needs. Is a Niko-Niko Calendar the right choice to help your team learn the language of emotional intelligence?
Want to learn more about how Distillery creates high-performing teams? Let us know!
Anna Varetsa is Distillery’s Head of QA. Having joined Distillery in 2014, she’s proven that she can catch any Heisenbug and that she knows black and white boxes differ in more ways than mere color. Anna believes that perfection is made up of small things — that’s why “pixel perfect” could truly be called her credo. In her spare time, she loves reading great literature and playing intellectual games.