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What are the most effective strategies for keeping the Scrum team motivated over the long-term?

Motivating team members over the long term is crucial for sustaining productivity and achieving project goals. While many companies mistakenly rely on monetary incentives, true motivation goes beyond financial rewards. Let’s explore effective strategies to keep your team motivated.

Understanding Motivation Beyond Money

The Limitation of Money as a Motivator

Money is often seen as a primary motivator, but it serves more as a hygiene factor. It needs to be sufficient to keep financial worries at bay, but beyond that, it doesn’t significantly enhance motivation or productivity.

  • Hygiene Factor: Enough money to make financial concerns irrelevant.
  • Beyond Sufficiency: Additional money is nice but doesn’t drive better performance.

Key Motivational Drivers: Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose

Dan Pink’s work in “Drive” identifies three key elements that truly motivate people: Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose. These elements are particularly relevant in the context of Scrum and Agile teams.


Autonomy is about giving team members the freedom to make decisions on how they approach their work. This empowerment leads to greater engagement and ownership of tasks.

  • Self-Management: Allow teams to manage themselves and make decisions.
  • Problem-Solving: Empower team members to find their own solutions to challenges.
  • Skill Development: Encourage learning and skill acquisition to handle tasks independently.

Example: In a well-functioning Scrum team, members decide how to achieve their sprint goals without micromanagement.


Mastery involves the desire to get better at something that matters. People are naturally inclined to improve their skills and competencies.

  • Continuous Learning: Foster an environment where continuous improvement is encouraged.
  • Deliberate Practice: Focus on specific skills and practice them deliberately to achieve mastery.
  • Feedback Mechanisms: Provide regular, constructive feedback to help team members improve.

Example: Developers might engage in daily coding exercises to enhance their technical skills and proficiency.


Purpose is about understanding the bigger picture and knowing that their work makes a difference. It gives meaning to the daily tasks and fuels motivation.

  • Clear Vision: Articulate a clear vision and purpose for the project.
  • Impact Awareness: Help team members see the impact of their work on customers and the organization.
  • Outcome Focus: Shift the focus from outputs to outcomes, emphasizing the value created.

Example: Explaining how a new feature will improve user experience can help developers see the importance of their work.

Practical Strategies for Long-Term Motivation

1. Promote Autonomy

  • Decentralized Decision-Making: Allow teams to make decisions about their processes and tools.
  • Flexible Work Arrangements: Offer flexibility in work hours and locations to suit individual preferences.
  • Skill Development Opportunities: Provide opportunities for team members to learn new skills and take on new challenges.

2. Foster Mastery

  • Continuous Improvement: Implement regular retrospectives to identify areas for improvement.
  • Learning Culture: Encourage attending workshops, conferences, and other learning opportunities.
  • Mentorship Programs: Establish mentorship programs to support skill development and career growth.

3. Instill a Sense of Purpose

  • Align with Goals: Ensure that team goals align with the organization’s vision and mission.
  • Storytelling: Use storytelling to convey the impact of the team’s work on customers and the broader community.
  • Celebrate Successes: Regularly celebrate achievements and milestones to reinforce the value of the team’s work.

Monitoring and Adjusting Motivation Strategies

Regularly check in with your team to ensure these strategies are effective and adjust them as needed.

Regular Check-Ins

  • One-on-Ones: Have regular one-on-one meetings to discuss individual motivations and challenges.
  • Team Meetings: Use team meetings to gather feedback on motivational strategies and make necessary adjustments.

Feedback and Adaptation

  • Feedback Loops: Create feedback loops to continuously gather input and improve motivational practices.
  • Adaptive Strategies: Be willing to adapt strategies based on team feedback and changing circumstances.

Conclusion: Sustaining Motivation in Scrum Teams

Keeping team members motivated over the long term requires a focus on autonomy, mastery, and purpose. By promoting self-management, fostering continuous improvement, and instilling a sense of purpose, you can create an environment where team members are engaged and motivated to deliver their best work. Regular check-ins and feedback loops ensure that these strategies remain effective and aligned with team needs.

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author avatar
John McFadyen Managing Partner
John McFadyen is an Executive and Enterprise Agile Coach with proven experience working on some of the UK and Europe’s largest, most complex Agile Transformations. As a Certified Scrum Trainer, John brings a wealth of experience as an Agile coach, Agile practitioner and software developer into each of the four core courses he provides. The war stories, the insights into successful Agile transformations and everything he has learned from coaching high-performance Agile teams combine to provide course delegates with a unique, compelling training experience that transforms as much as it empowers.

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