The Agilist’s Bookshelf

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Appelo, Jurgen. Managing for Happiness: Games, Tools, and Practices to Motivate Any Team. New York, NY, John Wiley & Sons, 2016.

Management, Jurgen Appelo writes, is too important to be left to managers. In Managing for Happiness, Appelo provides a dozen principles and practices that (almost) anyone can implement at work to create a happier workplace.

Some practices are harder than others for non-managers to implement. For example, the chapter, “Merit Money” discusses compensation strategies that non-executives would find nearly impossible to put into effect. Non-managerial leaders might implement delegation boards and delegation poker with some difficulty. But other most of the techniques, like value stories, culture books, feedback wraps, and personal maps, could be introduced by anyone in an organization.

Each chapter does double duty, introducing not only a practice, but the principle behind that practice. Readers will come away from the book not only knowing what they want to do, but why they want to do it. The end of each chapter provides suggested variations on each practice to spur the reader’s imagination.

The book’s form factor is its only drawback. The physical book is printed in landscape format, with each page being 9.5” wide. That makes it a little unwieldy to hold at times. Even hardcore fans of hard copy might prefer to get it in an electronic format.

Agile leaders, regardless of their job title and role, will find most of the games and tools in this book to be useful in their Agile practices. The “Moving Motivators” game, for example, will illuminate team dynamics so that the coach can better identify not only what motivates individuals, but the team itself. The “Learning Grid” is a great retrospective technique (Appelo even includes commentary from a Scrum Master to that effect). And the “Happiness Door” combines two common Agile practices to gather feedback and identify team happiness in one exercise. Managing for Happiness adds practical tools to the Agile leader’s toolkit.

 

 

 

On Being Laid Off

A year ago today, I lost my job due to a corporate restructuring. I received a generous severance package, and I had at least six months expenses in savings. It would be good for me to take some time off, I said. I told everyone I would be all right. But “all right” financially wasn’t the same as “all right” emotionally, and the experience threw me off balance for a long time.

In the weeks immediately following the layoff, I kept up a good front. I looked for work. I went to the gym. I wrote. But depression crept in around the edges. I found work quickly, but my physical fitness lagged. My writing suffered. I saw the world through a layer of gauze.

I wish I had been able to talk about what I was going through. I wasn’t that I lacked options. Immediately after the layoff, my family and friends all offered support. I assured them I was fine. By the time I admitted to myself that I wasn’t fine, I felt trapped into maintaining the positive front. After I’d made so many blithe predictions about how easy it would be for me, I couldn’t bring myself to go back to people and say, “I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m just going through the motions, and I feel bad about feeling bad.”

I’m doing better now. After spending seven months at a bad job, I had the good fortune to find much better, fulfilling one three months ago. That helped me re-orient myself. I hope I’ve learned from the experience not to pretend I’m invincible. I’d have been a lot better off for talking honestly about what I was going through than masking it.