How SCRUM motivates teams
How SCRUM motivates teams

"Record gap in IT specialists burdens German economy" (Handelsblatt 05.2019), "More than 100,000 vacancies for IT experts" ( 11.2019), "Merkel warns of companies moving away due to a shortage of skilled workers" (heise 12.2019).

The media response to the current situation on the IT job market is loud and polyphonic. In addition, there are the cassandra calls, for example from the Gallup Institute, that 14% of employees in Germany diagnosed having resigned internally. (Gallup: Gallup Engagement Index 2018)

in our opinion, this raises an important question for IT companies: when do competent people like to work for me?

Psychology professors Edward Deci and Richard Ryan came up with an answer to this question: the self-determination theory. It states that (intrinsic) motivation rests on three pillars: experiencing competence, autonomy and social integration.

When these three factors are met, work is perceived as a meaningful enrichment. Unfortunately, it is often not possible to satisfy these three human needs with classic, sometimes very formalistic structural and process organizations. There are multiple reasons for that. We would like to particularly emphasize the rigid, Tayloristic structures of many large companies, which demand a high degree of adaptation from the individual. As a result, employees lose motivation and only do their work half-heartedly. In the worst case, frustrated, they change employers in the hope of finding happiness elsewhere. But if new products, new colleagues and new bosses are waiting for you at this "different place", nothing will change in your motivation problem in the medium term, as long as the work is not organized differently. These framework conditions must make it possible to satisfy human needs for the experience of competence, autonomy and social integration in order to enable long-term motivated work.

We believe that Scrum is able to remedy this. With its rituals, rules and roles, Scrum can be the basis for motivated work.


experience of competence.

In order for the individual employee to experience competence, it must be clear to him how he contributes to achieving a challenging team goal. There are two components to consider: On the one hand, there must be a goal that is neither over- nor under-challenged and clearly understood (see also the AUSY Technologies blog: What organizations and companies can learn from Scrum). This is ensured in Scrum by the fact that the development team determines the sprint goal in the planning itself and without external influence and has the opportunity to adjust this process as part of the retrospective if necessary.

On the other hand, it must be clear to each individual how their actions make a valuable contribution. The cross-functional character of the team is very helpful. In a group of experts from different domains, such as backend development, UX design, software architecture and process analysis, everyone contributes valuable specialist knowledge. Each expert can contribute to the achievement of the sprint goal. This positive effect of the experienced competence is additionally reinforced by interaction with stakeholders, eg in the review. Here, every team member can experience the benefits of working together in the everyday life of the customer. In order to ensure this positive effect, the product owner ensures that the functionality is developed with the greatest customer benefit.



In the context of self-determination theory, autonomy describes the desire of the individual to determine their own actions independently and independently. It is noticeable here that a state of complete autonomy in the context of project work cannot ultimately be achieved even with an agile approach. However, there are aspects of Scrum that strongly meet the human need for autonomy.

The scope of the sprint and the definition of done is determined by the Scrum Team itself. There are no formal hierarchical differences in this team, all members are considered equal "developers" and the distribution of tasks is also done by the team itself and is not controlled from outside. The Scrum Master acts as an advocate for all rules, rituals and roles and prevents, for example, interference from outside.

In addition, Scrum contains elements to promote the free flow of information in the team. The daily “daily”, the retrospective and the fact that the project members work at the same place, ideally even in the same project office, promote formal and informal exchange within the team. In addition, great importance is attached to transparency, for example of the preliminary project (burn-down chart) or goals (vision board), which also helps to break down knowledge silos. The better information situation of each individual employee improves their ability to make decisions autonomously. In addition, these opportunities for exchange have a positive effect on the social structure of the team.


social inclusion.

By social connectedness is meant the endeavor to be connected with other people in authentic relationships and to care for others. Where there is often little room for informal communication in classic structures and project plans and organizational charts make many decisions for teams. Here Scrum gives the team the opportunity to find their own solutions in order to implement the backlog in the best possible way. This requires the team members to deal with each other and to develop effective communication mechanisms themselves. The physical proximity and the team size of three to nine people is very helpful here. In addition, the retrospective creates a framework for solving conflicts and learning together, thus growing together as a team. The Scrum Master plays an important role here,

Companies that live Scrum create a framework for their employees in which they can experience competence, autonomy and social integration. As discussed in this article, this inspires intrinsic motivation. This motivational effect is an important building block for attracting committed employees and keeping them in the long term.


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“People aren't happy because they're successful. They're successful because they're happy."

Jeff Sutherland
"Creator" of Scrum.