Introduction

Few months ago, I was called to take the role of a scrum master in an emergency. Indeed, the team that I was called to work with was going through difficult times. As you can expect it, the team’s morale was at the lowest. Before coaching and training this team on the scrum framework, one of the very first objective that I had was to establish a solid sense of psychological safety. Indeed, one of the ways that contributed to this objective was using a management 3.0 practice, called the Niko-Niko calendar.

First, let’s explain the Practice

Niko-Niko is a Japanese word that means smile. The practice was created in 2005 first by Ms. Sachiko Kuroda at Fujitsu Software Technologies Limited.

Sam at Management 3.0 in his insightful article The Secret to Creating Successful Hybrid Teams | Management 3.0 (management30.com) describes 6 ways that companies can use to create successful hybrid teams here are two of them:

  • Create a strong team culture
  • Avoid burnout

Why did I decide to use this practice?

The main reason why I used the Niko-Niko calendar was to establish a sense of engagement. Indeed, racking the team happiness is engaging and can be even fun for everyone.

Once the psychological safety was coming back within the team, we started to implement the scrum framework in good conditions. The Niko-Niko Calendar helped me as well as the team to evaluate and balance the overall workload.

In this perspective, It was very clear for me that without engagement, psychological safety, any attempt to push the team to perform under those conditions would be a failure. Indeed, this made a true believer that, as stated by Jurgen Appelo in his book “Managing for Happiness”: happiness comes first, success comes later. “The smart thing to do is to allow happiness take us on a path to success.”

How did I use this practice?

So, the first way to use this practice is an online application Teammood.com that sends team members an email at the end of each working day. The email asks the team members to choose between how they feel at end of each day. Team members have also the opportunity to leave an anonymous comment.

The question from Team mood’s email looks like : “How was your day?” team members then will have to choose between 5 levels (Excellent, Good, Normal, Difficult and Horrible.)

In this regards, the Niko-Niko calendar helped me and my teammates to share things that happen every day and reinforced to the team the feeling that they cared about each other. The Niko-Niko Calendar also allowed the team to track overall happiness transparently and accurately over time.

Moreover, the Niko-Niko calendar gives to the teams, especially the one going though crisis, the opportunity to talk daily. Indeed, team members do not have to wait for the retrospective to talk about how they feel. With this practice, a safe space for daily communication to build trust and care is vital.

The second way of using the Niko-Niko Calendar is by:

  • Download the Niko-Niko Calendar template or create your own unique one.
  • Write the team members’ names (or add pictures) in the horizontal boxes to the left and the calendar days of your working week in the boxes across the top.
  • Add the calendar to your online collaboration tool. (Klaxoon, Miro,…)

At the end of a working day the team gathers. Each team member quickly reviews the day on an individual basis and decides if it was a good day or not so good day. Secretly each person selects a rating from the stickers:

  • Green = It was an awesome day
  • Yellow = It was an ok day
  • Red = It was a horrible day

The third way to use the Niko-Niko Calendar for your remote team you can also download this .xlsx file and put it up as a shared Google Spreadsheet.

My learnings as a facilitator

In conclusion, the Niko Niko calendar is a fun and accurate way of establishing a solid sense of engagement for everyone. Will this practice refrain team members from handling their resignation if they really want to? No. However, it will help you kick-start the conversation and identify earlier the reasons for disengaged team members. In this perspective, when the Niko-Niko Calendar starts to turn red this is the sign that team members need to talk. Therefore, the most important learning for me as a scrum master is to let the scrum team express opinions and feelings in a safe environment daily.

Learn more about the Niko-Niko Calendar here as well as download the Management 3.0 template for free.

So, try it out and let me know about your experience! 😊

Thank you very much for reading.