Managing for Happiness with Jurgen Apello at Developer Week 2016

Happy workers are productive workers and managers should enjoy their jobs too!

– Managing for Happiness, Jurgen Appelo

The managers.

They are hated. Like Bill who doesn’t give you a raise or a better computer. Jurgen reluctantly admits that he was a manager like Bill. He begged his boss to be promoted away from being a manager. He was not very happy.

Everything has changed!

People now ask Jurgen how to manage software companies and businesses. It all comes down to manage the system for happiness. We need more companies with purpose like Apple and Tesla. We want products that have meaning, like nanobots, solar power. The purpose of management is making organizations valuable.

Change is easier when people share food.

Jurgen invited his colleagues to his house for dinner. Jurgen shopped for groceries and when the guests arrived he told them that they will cook the food. Jurgen just watched other people doing the hard work, typical manager role. He didn’t manage the people, he managed the system and environment around it. For a few hours there was happiness in the kitchen.

Teams should have reasons to celebrate.

Jurgen brought a bell to the office and everyone in the office was allowed to ring the bell. Celebrate success and celebrate learning. Embrace playfulness. CEO announced to the whole company that he just quit the job. This bell was an experiment. Run experiments to accelerate learning.

No contracts with the current team!

Contracts limit people’s freedom and happiness, like specifying your working hours and location. Jurgen’s team write their own job titles, like Jurgen’s Emperor God Overload. No contracts forces us to be more happy.

Innovate management

This helps us to focus on meaningful products and services.

Worst management is to incentify bonuses by way of gathering data. Keystrokes, lines of codes. Based on data the annual bonuses are calculated.

-Jurgen Appelo

The 7 silver bullets

  • Build for meaning,
  • Innovative management,
  • Accelerate learning,
  • Run experiments,
  • Embrace playfulness,
  • Nurture happiness,
  • Manage the system.

Always focusing on co-location, but it’s not about co-location.

It’s useful to be in the same room. Flextime, distributed team, globalization. People spread out. You need something else to achieve mental closeness, it’s not about geographical closeness. Jurgen came up with a new practice: personal maps. The trick is you are not allowed to present your personal map.  You make your personal map, you offer it and other people ask questions to have a conversation with the team members. These are different ways of people expressing themselves. These are people expressing themselves and this is what we should value. This was a successful experiment.

What’s the purpose of your company?

And then people usually mumble something. Uninspiring. This is a very interesting question to ask. Why are we doing these things together as a business? Do a Work Expo, this is a reflection of the stuff that the team is doing.

The whole point of my books is better management with less managers.

-Jurgen Appelo

Does success lead to happiness or does happiness lead to success?

Is it the success of the company and these practices that helped people be happier with their job? Or is it that happy people lead to the success of their organization? Majority in the room votes that happiness leads to success. Shawn Achor says that we now know that happiness is the precursor to success, not merely the result. But Phil Rosenzweig, author of The Halo Effect, says: Does employee [Quote needed]

Happiness leads to more productivity to them and their organization. It makes sense to invest in the happiness of their employees.

What does it take to make ourselves and others happy?

What are the things that make people happy in their jobs?

  • Thank someone
  • Help someone
  • Eat well
  • Exercise
  • Rest well
  • Experience new things
  • Hike outdoors
  • Meditate
  • Socialize
  • Aim for a goal
  • Smile


These things can be done by managers too!

Jurgen dragged his software developers out of their caves into the sun to do code reviews. Every experiment enrich you with the knowledge and experience that you gain, even if your experiment fails. Download here: m30.me/twelve-steps

Value stories and culture books

Example: Volkswagen. Our values. Responsibility and sustainability. What people lack is feedback, what we say vs. what we do. What the company claims on their website vs. what they actually do? Are they the same? Jurgen has a #value-stories channel where the team talks about things that resonate the company values. Other companies do handbooks, claim-books, like Zappos, IDEO. Comparing documented values with stories is an important practice. Frederic Laloux talks about Values Day. If something is happening and you do not take action as a leader or manager, that will be the base level of your culture.

The culture of any organization is shaped by the best behavior the leader is willing to amplify.

-Jurgen Appelo

Managers should compliment and highlight successes.

Merit money

Pay people according to their merit. Traditional bonus system, 80% disappears into the pocket of their managers and 20% for the employees. Many people don’t like these bonus systems. Many people say: let’s just pay everyone the same amount of money. A constant amount. No silly bonuses. Extra money as salary raise for the people.

Jurgen understand this sentiment but does not agree. It’s all about entitlement, people usually overestimate their contribution. The bigger the team, the more the people overestimate their contribution. If you keep steady salaries not differentiating, you demotivate most of the people because people think they perform better than the others.

Jurgen prefers having a bonus system with small amount and keep it realistic. At the start of the month everyone has 100 points and the points are shared between each other by team members crediting each other. The manager sets aside bonus money and converts the points into bonus money.

When is it payout time? Simple company rule: at the beginning of the month one team member throws a dice, if it’s a 6 then the bonus will be paid out. This is to avoid fixed payout times where employees already spend their bonus before they receive it and being disappointed that it’s less that expected.

With traditional bonus system you have a popularity contest. Moving from dictatorship to democracy. But the alternatives are worse so let’s make the best of it.

Be inspired by the things that could happen. Crediting each other for performance. You decide what you do with the points. At least you have actual data how people appreciate each other. Give credit for helpfulness, which people contribute the most to company values.

You are my first manager that doesn’t suck.

-One of Jurgen’s employees

Realize your ideas with more purposeful organizations! Aim for the 7 silver bullets. You end up with more innovative management and products and a company with better meaning.

m30.me/happiness

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