Motivation 3.0 A framework for explaining why working in a Scrum team can feel so right

From the moment I started working on a Scrum team I knew this was a better way of working than I was used to. Scrum done right promises twice the work in half the time – that in itself does not explain why working on a Scrum team feels so right. Of course, being able to be that much more productive is appealing – but I think there is more to it than that.

One day after having read Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink the pieces seemed to fall into place. In this book Pink talks a lot about what motivates us. He compares our motivation to that of an operating system which has evolved over time. Motivation 1.0 was survival, and worked well until society started to get more complex. Pink states an operating system based purely on the biological drive was inadequate and such Motivation 2.0 was introduced. This second drive stated that humans set out to seek reward and avoid punishments. This “carrots and sticks”-approach with “if-then” rewards to boost motivation is how things have been for a long time now. This is where Pink calls for an upgrade of the operating system – to Motivation 3.0.

With Motivation 3.0 humans still have a behavioral drive and also still seek rewards and avoids punishment. The third drive however is that humans have a drive to direct their own lives. The motivation formula (so to speak) is built on a trifecta: Mastery, autonomy and purpose.


These 3 things maps really well into Scrum and that’s a plausible explanation why working with a Scrum team feels really…motivating! My take on the mapping is done below – feel free to comment on this.

Continuous improvement through doing retrospectives and receiving feedback during review/demo is all about mastery. What impediments are in our way to achieve mastery of whatever we are creating in our Scrum team? Mastery can never be achieved and thus the improvement process can never stop.

Autonomy also maps very well to how Scrum works. Self-organizing teams is all about empowering the team members and letting them decide for themselves how to solve things, which tools to use and which team member to actually perform the task. Autonomy for the individual team member is very important in Scrum, and this is one of the top reasons why I like Scrum.

Part of the product owner responsibilities is to have a vision of what he or she wishes to build, and convey that vision to the scrum team. This is key to successfully starting and maintaining any agile software development project. By sharing this vision the purpose of the Scrum team will not be just about implementing that one specific feature or fixing that one specific bug. It will be communicated on a higher level. So it boils down to the stakeholders and ultimately the product owner to communicate the purpose of the Scrum team.

I could go into more details on the specific parts of Scrum that I like, but the point here is that having Motivation 3.0 as some kind of framework helps explaining that QWAN (quality without a name). Of course I like something that boosts my motivation! If you haven’t read Daniel Pinks book – I highly recommend it.


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