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Niko-niko and how feelings can be a very powerful indicator.

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First of all let’s start explaining the origin of Niko-niko calendars and the concept behind this technique…

The first mention of a Niko-Niko Calendar is arguably in Norm Kerth’s paper “Project Retrospectives”, the “Energy Seismograph”, nevertheless the first real description as we know today is described by Akinori Sakata in geocities.

In a few words, what is a Niko-niko calendar? The name comes from the Japanese word niko – Smily and as such is based on the agile practice of pasting a mood sticker on a calendar at the end of each day.



Did you ever work in a project where something went terribly wrong and all the team had to work extra hours for days just to get to the previous starting point? There is always a team member that says:

”I had this funny feeling about this and that… but I didn’t say anything because I thought it was just me”


Let me tell you I wouldn’t trust someone that never follows his gut feelings. Your team’s mood or general feeling is probably the best leading indicator of a projects performance and success. Just as employees happiness would be a leading indicator for customer satisfaction in a services provider company.

Let me evolve the concept further to explain its countless applications…

One of the main fundamentals of Niko-niko calendars has to be simplicity.  The team’s general mood has to be visible at a glance. Therefore, a lean design is very important: In TeamColony we keep down mood states to three #happy, #neutral and #sad.




For instance, this screenshoot is a real situation we lived in TeamColony while testing the Niko-niko beta. The first day we were all really excited of launching a new functionality, but it soon became clear that there were many bugs yet to be fixed. Our CTO and testing guys where clearly having the worse of it, as the rest of the team reported issues. Nevertheless, after a few days of hard work the situation clearly reverted naturally following a smooth up and down curve.

The niko-niko didn’t reveal any anomalies in the mood of any of team members but the information is invaluable when tracking the daily mood of the team and most importantly when analyzing in retrospective the project implementation.

Now, let me show a situation where a Niko-niko calendar could show early warning signs:




Tomás’ mood indicator is clearly diverging from the rest of the team. Probably until the third or fourth day the trend is not evident but after it is clear that something is really off. This is what makes the Niko-niko calendar really awesome, this early warning can be discussed during the sprint planification (if you use SCRUM as agile working schema) to detect the problem before it becomes an “elephant in the room”.

Niko-niko is also a perfect for tracking the mood of one individual. Similar to a to-do list the niko-niko provides a quick view of the days when all planned goals have been achieved. Feelings are very often underestimated and they can become a very powerful tool!


Photo credits: Jon McGovern,

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