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Utilizing Behavioural Science for Effective Scrum Adoption

April 26, 2024



Effective leadership and management lies in the ability to adapt and evolve. For heads of delivery, engineering or product aiming to enhance their teams' performance and efficiency through Scrum or other agile frameworks, integrating behavioural insights into the adoption process can be transformative. This article explores how the MINDSPACE framework, originally developed to influence behaviour through public policy, can be pivoted towards fostering successful Scrum adoption in your teams.


MINDSPACE was created by the Institute for Government and the Cabinet Office’s Behavioural Insights Team in the United Kingdom. The framework was developed by Paul Dolan, Michael Hallsworth, David Halpern, Dominic King, and Ivo Vlaev. It was specifically designed to help policymakers harness insights from the behavioural sciences to craft more effective public policy. By understanding how people think and what influences their decisions, the creators aimed to provide tools that could lead to more sustainable and accepted government interventions.

The UK government has utilised the MINDSPACE framework to encourage beneficial social behaviours and enhance policy compliance. For example, it has been applied to improve health outcomes by altering the environmental cues in public spaces to promote healthier choices, such as positioning healthier foods more prominently in school cafeterias. Similarly, to boost tax compliance, official communications have been modified to highlight the social norm of paying taxes by indicating that a high percentage of the population already complies. These applications demonstrate how subtle changes in how information is presented and how the environment is structured can significantly influence public behaviour in desired directions.

Components of MINDSPACE

- Messenger: We are heavily influenced by who communicates information.

- Incentives: Our responses are shaped by costs and benefits.

- Norms: We are influenced by what others do.

- Defaults: We "go with the flow" of pre-set options.

- Salience: Our attention is drawn to what is novel and relevant to us.

- Priming: Our actions are often influenced by subconscious cues.

- Affect: Our emotional associations can powerfully shape our actions.

- Commitments: We seek to be consistent with our public promises and reciprocate acts.

- Ego: We act in ways that make us feel better about ourselves.

The Relevance of MINDSPACE to Scrum Adoption

Adopting Scrum can be daunting. Teams often resist changes to their routine, struggle with engagement, and find new roles challenging. These behavioural hurdles can significantly slow down the transition.

By applying MINDSPACE's components, managers can directly address these issues, enhancing both the adoption process and overall team performance through targeted behavioural adjustments.

Applying MINDSPACE to Scrum Adoption


Strategies: Empower respected leaders as Scrum advocates and share success stories from within the organization.

Impact: These efforts build credibility and trust in the Scrum process.


Strategies: Highlight intrinsic rewards, like career progression and professional recognition.

Impact: These incentives motivate teams to adopt Scrum beyond mere financial benefits.


Strategies: Establish Scrum as the standard practice and showcase its effectiveness through internal success stories.

Impact: This normalization makes Scrum adoption a natural progression rather than a forced imposition.


Strategies: Embed Scrum into the default product & project management frameworks.

Impact: This integration encourages seamless adoption of Scrum practices.


Strategies: Maintain visibility of Scrum benefits and processes through ongoing workshops and visible release tracking.

Impact: Keeps the team focused and aware of Scrum and agile.


Strategies: Utilize workplace design and communication to subtly promote Scrum practices.

Impact: These cues foster a conducive environment for Scrum adoption.


Strategies: Celebrate Scrum milestones and create engaging training experiences.

Impact: Positive emotional experiences reduce resistance and enhance team cohesion.


Strategies: Encourage teams to publicly commit to Scrum's product and sprint goals.

Impact: Public commitments reinforce accountability and adherence to Scrum practices.


Strategies: Link Scrum adoption with personal and professional growth.

Impact: This alignment boosts personal investment in Scrum success.

Strategies for leaders

As pivotal figures in this transformation, heads of delivery can drive Scrum adoption effectively by applying MINDSPACE strategically. This section would offer practical steps for implementing each element within their teams.

Integrating MINDSPACE into Scrum adoption not only enhances the process but also fortifies the team's long-term performance. We urge middle managers to consider how this approach can be tailored to their specific needs and challenges, fostering a more agile, responsive, and efficient team dynamic.

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