Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Agile teams and Positive psychology


Imagine a retrospective taking place, and a team member expresses gratitude towards one of the colleagues for helping out. The colleague most probably communicates back in a positive way (verbally or non-verbally). After a short silence, there is a good chance someone else will also express their own gratitude towards others. Positive emotions spread trough a team by creating chains of events that carry positive meaning for others. In psychology, this is called “upwards spiral”.

Now imagine a completely different situation, where a team member brings negativity in a discussion or work. Just as example, imagine a person finger pointing others without argumentation. This could quite easily reverberate through others and result in a series of negative events. In psychology this is “downwards spiral”.

Emotions are contagious.

Emotions are also very much related to project success. Different emotions bring different kind of action urges, and therefore lead to different project results. 

In the end, emotions create an atmosphere and culture around us.


Even though positive emotions are subtle by their nature, they are also extremely powerful. 

“Positive psychology”, also sometimes referred to as “Science of happiness”, is a pretty new domain in psychology and is basically the scientific study of positive human functioning. For all interested in this I recommend everything written by Barbara Fredrickson and her very successful coursera course on this topic https://www.coursera.org/learn/positive-psychology.


I find so much common between topics of her research and Scrum values, and I think agile teams and practices can take so much from this science.

We can learn how to recognise upwards and downwards spirals, and how individuals can influence these currents. We can learn how to build resilience in risky project situations, and how to bounce back to track even if there is a failure. We can also learn how to measure positivity and what are desired measures for flourishing teams.

Opportunities for growing positivity are there, but easy to miss, and to learn about them we need to get in the game. There are so many games available in agile community, and I think we can use many of them for positivity growth. Anyone else interested in this research?


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