Outcome-based metrics are an essential measure of Scrum Team performance. But they can be lagging indicators. In other words, it can take a while for changes a team makes to show up in performance outcomes.
A faster way to take the pulse of a Scrum Team is to (wait for it) ask them. Ask them how it’s going using sentiment surveys at the Sprint Retrospective or through an anonymous survey.
Sentiment survey at the Retrospective
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
Including a sentiment survey as part of your Sprint Retrospective is a quick and easy way to evaluate performance. After covering your regular agenda, ask one simple question. It can be something as simple as one of the following:
How happy are you with your Scrum Team?
How well are we doing as a team?
How are you feeling?
Scrum Team morale is negatively impacted when things aren’t working well, and these questions can act as an early warning system. You might discover that the Scrum Team has a lot of technical debt or that they feel the features they are working on won’t add value to the customer. When you see that the Scrum Team isn’t happy, it’s an opportunity to ask them why they are not happy—and then listen.
Graphing Sentiment Survey Responses
Asking a sentiment question once provides valuable insight. But if you ask that same question at every Sprint Retrospective and plot it on a graph over time, you start to get a sense of the impact of other factors on Scrum team morale. This information can help provide early feedback—like a canary in a coal mine—indicating something might be wrong. If the Scrum Team is beset with low-quality, technical debt or is working on useless features, it will probably show up in morale first. No one wants to work on things that don’t add value.
By graphing Scrum Team sentiment over time, you can see when there are big dips in happiness. The Sprint Retrospective is a perfect opportunity to discuss the sentiment survey results and dig into any changes in the data.
A Formal Survey
Sometimes collecting feedback with a more detailed survey can provide a higher-level view of the Scrum Team’s happiness or provide insight into sources of discontent. This can be especially valuable if the Scrum Team is undergoing a significant change, such as a reorganization or a Product Goal adjustment.
Following are some sample survey questions to consider asking your team. Choosing a mix of quantitative and qualitative questions gets the most helpful survey results. In addition, if you know that the Scrum Team is struggling with a particular area—such as refinement— include questions about it in your survey.
Answers to quantitative questions are countable. You can easily graph the results from these questions for a team review.
On a scale of 1-10, how well do you think the team is collaborating and communicating with each other?
Is the team achieving the goal agreed upon for each sprint?
Are you satisfied with the team’s ability to complete Product Backlog items?
Is the team adapting to changes effectively and efficiently?
Is the team using the Scrum framework and its practices?
Is the team demonstrating the core Scrum values (commitment, courage, focus, openness, and respect)?
Are you satisfied with the team’s ability to resolve conflicts and overcome obstacles during the Sprint?
On a scale of 1-10, how well is the team continuously improving its processes and practices?
Is the team actively engaging in retrospectives and implementing improvements based on the feedback?
Are you satisfied with the team’s overall performance and its contribution to the success of the project?
Open-ended, qualitative questions:
Qualitative questions are interpretation-based and descriptive. While you can’t graph the results of open-ended questions, and they can take longer to review—especially for larger product teams—the feedback can provide deeper insights than “yes or no” questions alone.
What is best about your Scrum implementation right now?
What is worst about your Scrum implementation right now?
What would increase your happiness?
What changes, if any, would you recommend to improve refinement?
How effective is your team at using retrospectives to affect continuous improvement?
How could we better live the Scrum values?
How could we increase our transparency with team members?
How can we make the Sprint Review more impactful?
How can our leaders better support your team?
What could we do better as a team?
When collecting survey results, be thoughtful about whether to allow survey respondents to provide their data anonymously. If the data is anonymous, you may receive a different level of honesty than if it’s not. However, collecting names may allow you to gain more insight by asking individuals follow-up questions.
The prospect of an anonymous survey might leave you with questions. What about the Scrum value of courage? What about transparency? Trust and transparency are essential for a Scrum Team. But faced with providing written feedback, individuals might be reluctant to convey negative feedback—especially if asked about leadership support and its impacts on the Scrum Team. If you are working on trust issues with your team, an anonymous survey is likely the right choice for now.
Collecting feedback about happiness and team morale is a valuable early feedback mechanism for Scrum Team performance. While happiness doesn’t pay the bills, it can impact the team’s ability to deliver value to the customer. A change in the happiness level of a Scrum Team can also provide insight into whether there are problems that need additional follow-up. Asking the Scrum Team something as simple as “How do you feel?” can be the gateway to a conversation that improves the team’s experience and the value they are able to provide.