As a Scrum Master, what actions or steps do I need to take when team members are not engaged or motivated, especially when the team members realize they don't have to report to me and that I don't do their appraisals?

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    Please provide additional information. Why are they not motivated? What have you done to engage them? What authority has your organization given you to manage the team or the project? – Todd A. Jacobs Nov 25 '14 at 19:01
  • I used following techniques till now. One on one talks, understanding their goals and ambition, Facilitation in team meetings by providing opportunity to talk, lunch and learn sessions as team exercise, appreciating the work verbally or via email when opportunity presented to name a few – ramu Nov 25 '14 at 19:38

The Scrum Master Isn't a Team Mascot or Cheerleader

As a Scrum Master, what actions or steps do I need to take when team members are not engaged or motivated, especially when the team members realize they don't have to report to me and that I don't do their appraisals?

You and your organization have failed to understand the role of the Scrum Master. The Scrum Master is not supposed to be an authority figure, and is not generally delegated managerial authority. By the same token, while you are expected to use your soft skills and influence to improve the cohesion and effectiveness of the Scrum Team, the Scrum Master is not responsible for motivating or engaging the team members.

The Scrum Master is a process referee, not a functional manager. The Scrum Master's job is to provide coaching and guidance to the team and the organization, and to evangelize effective Scrum practices. You are there to facilitate process and communication; if instead you are trying to engage or motivate disenfranchised team members, then You Are Doing Scrum Wrong™.

Perform Your Responsibilities So That Senior Management Can Perform Theirs

While fixing dystopian organizations is not in the Scrum Master's job description, facilitating the flow of information and encouraging clear communication are core job requirements. Therefore, you should:

  1. Work with your team and your organization to identify why your Scrum process is broken.
  2. Work with your team members to identify why they feel unmotivated or disengaged.
  3. Use Scrum meetings like Sprint Retrospectives to see if there are any ways the Scrum Team can address any of the identified deficits, with or without assistance from the broader organization.
  4. Provide transparency about the problems to the organization, and open communications channels between the team and senior management to address the issues.
  5. Ensure senior management has the information they need to make strategic decisions, and are given every opportunity to correct the organizational problems that they are ultimately responsible for.

Although I partially agree with CG ("Scrum Master is not a cheerleader") I believe it applies to very mature teams, but most team "becoming agile" requires much more from a Scrum Master. Based on the question details, we can assume your project still has a long way to become a proper agile team (the whole question supports this).

A very mature and stable agile team member has had at some moment in life and inspiring leader. What an inspiring leader does? It gives a purpose, a meaning to the work. It does not need to be the Scrum Master. It could be the PO. It could be someone from senior management. But someone needs to trigger this spark. If you, as Scrum Master, have detected this, you can work on it.

The answer from now on, is not agile-specific. You have to identify what motivates the team and work on it. There's a lot of material like THIS, THIS and THIS. THIS one is very good as it provides a link to THIS TedTalk about motivation.

What does they have in common?

They say that money should not be a major problem. Once this is not a major problem, you have to focus on Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose.

Autonomy because bright people can find solutions for the problems and get motivated by doing so.

Mastery because bright people likes to sharpen up their own skills and gets motivated by doing so.

Purpose because bright people like to do meaningful stuff and gets motivated by doing so.

As a last note, based purely on my experience, I'd say some people and teams are not good for agile projects. If that's the case, it should be identified and dealt accordingly.


Have you tried convincing their bosses (and their bosses bosses) that your project is important?

Frankly, you aren't that important to your team if they aren't reporting to you. To get around this hurdle you will need to get people with real authority over your team on your side.

So my advice is to sit down with the leaders who can impact your team and get their buy in that (a) your project is important (business case is solid!), (b) your project is worth prioritizing over other projects, and (c) they will work with you to promote the project with your team.

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    I don't agree with the idea that 'you aren't that important to your team if they aren't reporting to you'. PMs regularly lead teams that they do not manage and the best ones are often popular and successful because they actively champion, defend and support their project team regardless of this. – Willl Nov 26 '14 at 16:19

You do not motivate people. This triangle does.

motivation triangle
(source: hyperthot.com)

So make sure every team member:

  1. Owns a SMART task.
  2. Got sufficient knowledge and tools to complete the task.
  3. Has given a regular feedback on the task progress.

If, with all the above satisfied, the team member remains not motivated, consider replacing him/her.

  • Where is "money" on that diagram? I agree with most of what you wrote, but only volunteers work for free. – Todd A. Jacobs Nov 25 '14 at 22:17
  • Money, as well as the office space, lunch and a laptop is one of many conditions required for the employer-employee relationship to take place. However, money do not really motivate. It's easy to verify - just give any developer more money. Will he work better? No. – Vadim Tikanov Nov 26 '14 at 8:29
  • About money, I like the quote: "You need to pay your employees enough so that the issue is off the table, but after that it has little effect." (Now if I knew where I have it from...) – rioki Nov 27 '14 at 12:47
  • Hi @rioki, it might be from ted.com/talks/dan_pink_on_motivation#t-1100463 :) – Tiago Cardoso Feb 19 '19 at 15:53

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