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How Scrum Motivates People

February 21, 2017

In a lot of my Scrum trainings I show this great looking video of a talk by Daniel Pink, the author of Drive: the surprising truth about what motivates people. Pink explains there are three intrinsic drivers for motivation: autonomy, mastery and purpose. I think the roles in Scrum all nicely help in stimulating these drivers. Here's how:

Autonomy and the Scrum Master

The Scrum Master is a servant-leader for the Scrum team. One of his greatest tasks is coaching the Development Team in self-organization. This means getting the team more and more autonomous in the way they do their work. Removing impediments and enabling the organization to give more and more control to the Scrum Team might lead to higher motivation of the Scrum Team's members.

Mastery and the Development Team

The Development Team in Scrum consists of professionals who organize and manage their own work. They are expected to improve not only their way of work, but also their skills. Well functioning Dev Teams invest in their craft and become masters of their profession. They go to trainings and conferences, attend hackathons and use slack time to check out new technologies and innovations. Doing this leads to greater mastery of their craft, and according to Pink to higher motivated and more engaged professionals.

Purpose and the Product Owner

The Product Owner strives to maximize the value the Development Team creates. She makes sure the product supports the company vision. When this vision is purpose driven, the purpose is reflected in the product and Product Backlog. The Scrum Team then knows why they are creating the product and how it contributes to said purpose. A good Product Owner thus not only maximizes the value of the product, but is also a purpose maximizer.

Why not motivate people with more money?

By now most of us know that money does not work very well as a motivator. At least not for any cognitive work says Pink. But it is important to pay people enough to "put the issue of money off the table". Once this is the case, rewarding people with an innovation bonus does not motivate them to perform better.

So instead of spending a lot of money on bonuses that don't work, consider growing agile teams, getting out of their way and organizing events like hackathons that improve the autonomy, mastery and purpose of your people.
In my experience no team that employs an agile way of working wants to go back to a traditional methodology. People say it's fun, they get to be creative again, and are recognized as the smart professionals they are. Sure, there's the occasional team member that likes to be told what to do, but even he wants to become a master of something, and work for a purpose.

What do you think? Do you agree and recognize that the Scrum roles connect with the drivers behind motivation? I would love to hear your examples of how this works, or doesn't work, in Scrum teams.

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Note: In this blog Martin uses the term Development Team, based on the changes to the Scrum Guide in 2020, this is now referred to as Developer, however, the context of his blog does not change.

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