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The Path to Creating a Highly Motivated Agile Team | David Tzemach

Updated: Mar 2, 2022

Here I will share the most effective methods to increase individual and team motivation. I know that there are many other ways, but I have never had a motivation problem that I could not resolve by using one of the following approaches:

Treat all team members as equals but know their differences.

A Scrum development team is built from different people assembled to achieve a common goal. It is nice to say that all team members are equal, but they are not. We must remember that each team member has their own set of skills, knowledge, and experience. We need to use their specific skill set to solve the team's particular challenges during a sprint.

A good example is a technical leader who is part of the team with vast knowledge in a specific technology that the team will use throughout the project. This technical leader will still work under the exact rules and boundaries as all other team members. However, thanks to his knowledge, we can free up his time to focus on a specific task or a challenge and move his remaining tasks to other team members.

Show interest in the team and its members

With experience, we learn that motivation starts with simply paying attention to the team. Think about each team member as your child who only wants to receive a good word on your return from work or hear appreciation for what he achieved in school that day. They, like your child (as a team and as individuals), want you to listen to them, celebrate their achievements, and pay attention to what they have to say.

Meetings, meetings, and more meetings

I’ve never seen an engineer who wants to participate in multiple meetings that keep her from working. The Scrum framework contains various events, which can be a motivation killer for those engineers who do not understand why they need so many meetings that interfere with their ability to remain focused. This is especially true for new teams that have just started working this way.

Therefore, it is essential that each added meeting makes sense to the team. Otherwise, it is just one more meeting that will be holding them back. If you add meetings, make sure there is a clear agenda so that the team does not waste their time.

Increase interest in challenging tasks

Some people prefer a change in their day-to-day work to regain excitement and interest in what they are doing. Usually, there is excitement at the start of a project; this is even more evident when starting an Agile transition. This is because there are significant changes in all aspects of the team’s work, which should be enough to keep their interest.

After this period, the team has already gained most of their knowledge to work in this framework. They will focus their attention on the ongoing daily activities that are part of every sprint (meetings, handling bugs, etc.). Team members may start to lose interest due to the repetition of activities without new challenges. The best method to alleviate this is to break the routine by adding challenging tasks that will help the team regain their motivation and interest.

Supportive working environment

The working environment plays an essential factor in determining team motivation. Remember that the team will spend most of their effective hours at work, and therefore a supportive and pleasant working environment is essential.

To begin with, set goals that will not fail the team.

Think about a leader who sets unrealistic goals for the team, such as delivering features at the end of a sprint, features that the team has neither the knowledge nor the experience to handle, or asking the team to complete an integration with another team although the second team are not ready. Setting a goal that a team does not have a real chance to meet is probably one of the most significant contributing factors in reducing the team’s motivation.

To allow the team to see success, the team must work with clear, visible and above all measurable goals that will enable them to do so. One classic example is a team with substantial technical debt that affects their ability to deliver real value to the customer. In such a case, we can set a goal of reducing this technical debt by five to ten percent per sprint.

By setting such a goal, we can ensure that the team understands what is expected of them and measure it from sprint to sprint.

The creativity that comes from real freedom

There is a reason you hire intelligent people, and there is a better reason to provide them with the freedom to use their creativity while working. My rule is that you need to set guidelines for any task but allow the team to use their creativity in deciding how they want to reach the objective.

By following this simple rule, we allow the team to find superior solutions to problems instead of just giving them strict guidelines that kill the possibility of innovation.

Make room for mistakes.

Mistakes are part of every solution and cannot be avoided. Team members will make mistakes no matter how talented and committed they are. The key here is to set clear boundaries that allow them the freedom to work and use their skills but reduce the percentage of mistakes that severely impact the organization. In addition, we must make sure that each member has the confidence to make mistakes because there are no “punishments” that will keep them from trying again.

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