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The path to personal happiness with Agile and Scrum

Can Agile and Scrum methods help you live a happier life? Ask Scrum Master and Agile coach Herman Meeuwsen and he will answer with a resounding yes. His book A Scrum Master's Guide to Happiness has recently been published. Using step-by-step instructions and templates, he explains how to identify your per-sonal goals and values, learn to plan and execute them effectively, and adjust them regularly to ultimately lead a happier life.


In his book, Herman gives several examples of how he applies Agile and Scrum practices in his personal life. For example, living a healthy life is an important goal for him and he uses a number of tools to help him achieve this. He has an app on his phone that allows him to easily track whether he is drinking his target number of glasses of water. To maintain a healthy weight, he uses a smart scale and the Noom app, which tracks what he eats and gives him advice on what is best to eat. And he has a weekly checklist in his planning app, where he records whether he walked, cycled or did yoga each day. "All these metrics help me make more conscious choices that are good for my health. But it also inspires me to be creative when things go differently than planned. For example, if I have a busy day, I will take the stairs to the tenth floor of the office as an alternative workout".


Reflection is an important part of monitoring progress towards his personal goals. For example, Herman does his weekly review on Sunday mornings to assess what went well and what didn't last week. "You can do this mentally in your head, but I prefer to write everything down," says Herman. "It helps clear my head and I can read it back again. In this review I ask myself three questions. What made me happy, what did I learn and what could I improve? Then I choose 1-2 concrete actions that I want to do in the coming week. It doesn't always have to be something big. I have a notebook by my bed, and it takes me half an hour max".

Inspection and adaptation

Agile and Scrum practices have not only helped him, but also his family. When he entered a new relationship after a divorce and his two teenage children from his previous marriage were with him and his new wife every weekend, this initially caused some friction. Herman: "Because my ex-wife's and my household rules were different, it often caused problems when my children and my new partner's children were with us at weekends. I was often the mediator in any argument about chores or which TV program to be watched. At a certain point, I didn't want to do that anymore and strived for a situation where we were all happier together. Inspired by the Scrum Retrospective, I then called a kitchen table session where we all had the opportunity to talk honestly and openly about our personal values, needs and frustrations. This helped enormously and also ensured that mutual communication improved structurally and we grew closer as a family. Now the children have left home and we are in a different phase of life, but I still have a kind of review with my wife once a month to see if things are still going well, and it leads to some very nice conversations.

Scrumpy Dad

In writing the book, Herman was grateful to be able to draw on the personal development blogs he publishes as Scrumpy Dad on Medium. "Those blogs gave me a lot of the building blocks for my book. So I had the structure down pretty quickly. All in all, it took me six months to write the book, which was a mix of theory and practice. I then asked a number of people to give feedback on the different chapters of the book. I also hired a professional English copywriter to critique the manuscript in terms of plot and structure. One of the things I got back was that the word "happiness" did not appear very often in the book. And I got good tips on how to write a good introduction.


For anyone looking for more happiness in their lives, Herman has a few tips. "First of all, let me say that happiness is a very subjective and personal concept, and everyone has to find out for themselves what it means to them. The most important tip is to start as simple as possible and look back every week. Ask yourself two questions: what went well and what do I want to change? This basic form of self-reflection will soon give you insights you can act on. It's a small effort and you'll reap the benefits very quickly.

And yes, then the key question: has he himself become happier? "Yes, I am more satisfied with what is going well. And I love to learn. What new things can I pick up, what new skills can I develop? Applying Agile and Scrum practices in my own life has taught me to rely on my own strengths and to stay true to my goals, even in difficult times. Publishing my own book is a good example of this. I've also learnt that you don't have to do everything yourself and that you can ask others for help".

A Scrum Master's Guide to Happiness is available on Amazon.