Happy is as happy does
Sitting here at the Microsoft Patterns
& Practices Summit (West 2007) and just heard a presentation by Grigori
Melnik. His topic was primarily around empirical evidence (surveys from the wild)
software development adoption and results. However, one of the data points he
mentioned really struck me as incongruent with one of my long-held beliefs.
A simple slide up on the pair of giant screens said, “Happy Teams -> Productive
Teams”. He asked how many people believe that to be a true statement, and then clicked
his mouse – a big red X dropped
over the arrow along with the text, “Myth”.
Apparently, Grigori’s work with organizational behavior experts and analysts has convinced
him that, in fact, there is no demonstrable causal relationship between a team’s happiness
and their productivity. However, they have demonstrated a direct relationship between
happiness and turnover. In other words, if people aren’t happy, they will work productively
until they leave, and when they do leave, the churn will not negatively impact the
team’s overall productivity.
I’m still trying to fully grasp that notion and figure out if I can synthesize it
with my personal experiences and values. For the time being, sitting here in this
room with another presenter about to take the stage, I am going to have to politely
disagree with Grigori – regardless of how much data he has to back it up. I’ll dive
into this more.