Occasionally I become responsible for fixing dysfunctional teams on their way to agile. Often these teams are entirely misaligned with project and company goals and consistently failed to improve the process. Aligning goals and motivations is always a kind of negotiation inside the team, as well as between the team and the company or the customer. And one of the rules of a successful negotiation is to know and account for the other side goals, values, and motivations. Finally, as we know, the best way to know something about somebody is to ask them.
Agile facilitation itself it a lot about aligning personal, team, and project goals. I found the Moving Motivators technique very useful in these situations.
Choosing this technique as a discussion opener serves multiple purposes:
1) Of course, it lets me learn about their motivation and goals.
2) It makes the meeting about the team and creates the stage for them to have a voice in this conversation. It is essential; people rarely want to talk about others and their needs. But everybody likes to talk about themselves. So it helped them to become engaged in the conversation.
Hint: For remote conversation, it is convenient to use a virtual whiteboard. I use miro. Do not forget to share your screen with the board as well. It helps people to navigate through the board and keep concentrate on the current subject of discussion.
Hint: Create a set of “sticky notes” on the base of moving motivators cards for every participant of the discussions, so all they need is sort them out. Make sure that everyone has chosen their own set of notes.
Hint: Explain why you offer this game. The important part is letting them know that your ultimate goal is to help them reach their goals. Show how to play creating your motivation deck.
Hint: I always add a “My Own Motivation” option for them. People rarely choose it, but this card help to avoid setting limits on their creativity, putting them into a box of just ten options.
Hint: Never ever force people to answer! They should never be forced to play or to give an explanation of their choice. However, you can always facilitate their participation, explaining how they can benefit from participation.
After everybody finished sorting their deck, we select the top 4 cards from each deck to discuss them.
Hint: Do not ask people why they have chosen this card. Many find it is not very comfortable to answer this question. Ask instead, “what does it mean for your to…”
Side Note: Mastery is a commonly chosen but trickiest to discuss the card. If you ask, “what is mastery for you?” most people would discuss how the master does the job. But if you ask them: “have you ever seen a master? Describe him or her!” they often describe what the master creates as a result of his or her work. That would make an intense and enlightening discussion on the matter of mastery.
Hint: Do not forget to rephrase and talkback their explanations to make sure that any misunderstanding is resolved.
Then lead a meaningful discussion on how you (don’t use abstractions such as “a company,” “a customer,” “a scrum master”) would help them to reach their goals. This discussion helps to discover their needs and expectations.
Now it is a good time to deliver your message. And often, the message changes because of new information that the team has just shared with you. But it a message not “I want you to” or “You should” style anymore. It is the message “It would be easier for me to help you reach your goals if you…” style.
Hint: Don’t hesitate to use the previous bad experience with the team to demonstrate your point. However, use it in the form “this is how that situation prevented me from helping you the way you want…” instead of “you do this, therefore…”. In other words, highlight actions and results, not people.
Hint: Don’t hesitate to remind the team that others, like a company, customers, and yourself, must also be motivated to want to help them. Delegate the team to decide on how they can motivate their partners in this collation the best. You can (and often have to) advise, but let them decide.
This method helped me to improve team motivation on a few occasions. It is not a magic wand, and the team does not change immediately, but the team often becomes open to collaborating as they understand their benefits and their role better.
See the description of technique and buy cards at