Some team members are self-motivated however some others is not. Non self-motivated members is slowing down the velocity of the project which cause frustration to the other members and to management.

What are best practices to motivate my project team members to be self-motivated?

  • 6
    How can you train your team to be self trained? :-) Commented Sep 2, 2012 at 23:05
  • 1
    I think you may be asking the wrong question. What you should be asking is how to keep your team motivated. Find out what motivates each one (what they need) and what bothers each one and then proceed from there. Commented Sep 2, 2012 at 23:07
  • Also, read this book: amazon.com/Individuals-Interactions-An-Agile-Guide/dp/… Commented Sep 2, 2012 at 23:11
  • @DannyVarod - may be you are right regarding the way the question is written, I should re-write my question in another way. Thanks to give a hand :) taking in consideration that I need them to be self-motivated and not dependent on me fulfilling their needs Commented Sep 2, 2012 at 23:21
  • Playing Devil's Advocate: Why should members of a team be self motivated? It is a bonus that some are, but why would you expect them to be so? Motivation is a carrot or a stick - some provide their own (both carrots and sticks), but one should expect to have to motivate one's own staff. Some people will just not be motivated whatever you do - these are the ones doing the job for money (out of necessity) only and no longer (or perhaps never did) enjoy the job/like the company/etc. Not much we can do with such people - they are either needed or deadwood, that provides the solution.
    – Wolf5370
    Commented Sep 3, 2012 at 8:23

7 Answers 7


First: A Few Words About Velocity

Velocity is most useful as an estimating tool, and as a measure of variance. However, it is often misused as a management goal or external commitment target.

Wide variance in velocity is certainly a good reason to inspect the current project, though, and look for flaws in estimation, procedural impediments, process issues, or even social dynamics. However, social dynamics is deliberately last on the list, as problems with social dynamics are usually (but not always) symptoms of process issues rather than the other way around.

Still, since the question as posed was about self-motivation, let's start there.

External vs. Internal Motivation

If a person not self-motivated, then they can possibly be motivated by external incentives, but that's still not intrinsically self-motivation. Self-motivation requires engagement with the process, and a certain amount of enlightened self-interest in the outcome of that process.

Disenfranchisement is Common

Teams aren't "teams" just because people are assigned to them. Real teaming is something that grows organically out of a successful organizational and social process.

In many organizations, teaming is imposed externally, and then management is surprised when a random assemblage of people doesn't gel together. In other cases, tasks, deadlines, and objectives are mandated from above, and then (surprise again!) the "resources" fail to take personal responsibility for commitments they haven't made themselves.

Open a Dialog

You can't really know what's wrong unless you talk to the entire group. "Lack of self-motivation" is a symptom, not a cause. I'd bet heavily that the members of the group know why the project is not meeting expectations, so ask them!

If there really is a problem with specific individuals, opening a dialog directly with them is also a good first step. Communication is critical, regardless of the project management methodology.

Inspect Your Process

This is a terrific opportunity to inspect your entire system of processes. Some things you can look at are:

  1. Is the project management framework a good fit for the work at hand?
  2. Is the project management process working as designed?
  3. Is the project management process working effectively?
  4. Do you have the right people with the right skill-sets on the project?
  5. Are there organizational processes that are impeding the project?
  6. Are the hiring/retention practices bringing in the right people, and keeping them there?


If you truly have under-performing group members, then it's a Human Resources issue rather than a Project Management one. The solution to such problems is always self-evident: don't retain poor performers, and budget a lot more if you want to recruit top talent.

However, if you don't start with the assumption that there's something wrong with the team members, but possibly something wrong with the group's process, then you have a lot of wonderful opportunities to inspect-and-adapt. Don't underestimate the power of good process (re-)engineering!


Notwithstanding individual variability during one's career or various periods in one's life, you'll likley find a rather normal distribution of motivation across any team. Every now and again you may have a team with very high motivated individuals and vice versa.

The three leading motivators in the workplace seem to be: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Perhaps you need to break these three down and build an environment where these doctrines are maximized to the degree possible. These are the variables that are in your control and can influence and encourage improvement to some degree the motivation you are seeing.

Otherwise, you would be best served to plan your velocity of work around a nice distribution of motivated individuals, i.e., plan your work based on the fact that you will have a span of motivated performers across the range of possibilities and set your expectations accordingly. In other words, instead of, "non-motivated members are slowing...," the so called non motivatated members are right sizing the velocity to something that is quite normal and reasonable.

The only caveat to my answer would be if there is something in the culture or environment that is killing motivation. That would be an issue that needs to get cured.


Self-motivation can not be transmitted, it comes on the DNA, but all individuals have some. Then, the important thing is that people remember to use their self-motivation more often. For this to happen you must create an environment of positivism as being positive in front of a challenge is what will trigger self-motivation. They come together always.

Also, I guess, that what you are looking for is a way to have this state to be constant and not having to act 'on demand' every time a new challenge raises on the horizon of your team. You will achieve this by having an environment where people see daily that with their work they can reach their goals, that is, what motivates them.

Maslow's pyramid describes pretty well needs, and hence, motivations.For each of the levels there are job related aspects to be addressed:

Maslow's pyramid, from wikipedia.org

  • Physiological, salary must be fair for the job and responsibilities, this will help cover the person needs. Having a huge salary will not help to motivate longer.
  • Safety, every person needs to feel that what he is doing is important, and recognized by the company working for. Also, needs to have the tools to do the job properly. If you don't provide those, he will understand that for you is not important he struggles as you are not making the effort to provide the equipment.
  • Belonging, when the person feels himself important in the group he is ready to integrate on the group and he values other people contributions. Together they can achieve much more. Collaboration is the value you must push at this level.
  • Esteem, with achievements comes pride and recognition and this enables the group to repeat and improve their marks. Empowerment must be strong in your organization. People must feel themselves responsible while you keep accountability (this is why is difficult to implement).
  • Self-actualization, with the previous levels consolidated, people will feel themselves capable of innovation, initiative and pushing the limits. It is important here that error is not punished, but considered part of the learning process.

It is also possible to build a similar parallelism between the Maslow's pyramid and CMMI model. Depending on your organization it can help you to build your culture. PM forget sometimes that people is one of the key parts in technology and they try to achieve nirvana on their organizations improving their processes without enabling people to grow with the new paradigm.


Self motivation is something you cannot achieve from the outside - it is something that born and dies within each of us.

What you can do however is to provide an environment which will favor self-motivation attitudes.

For example you can reward behaviors which, in your opinion, are manifestations of self-motivation. I don't know what rewarding system will work in your company - this is something you have to discover yourself. The book "Drive" by Dan Pink should help you with that.

I'll share the way how I create environment that supports self motivation. Maybe you'll find this somehow inspiring.

I believe that self motivation is often established when one knows the impact she does have on environment.

The tool that I use is 360 degrees feedback which makes employees more aware of the impact they have on environment - especially the team they're working in. Imagine that one day 3 out of 5 team mates independently informed you, that as a tester you should learn more about test automation, because current way of testing slows the team down. This information is potentially a good starting point - an ignitor I may say - of self motivation to develop new testing skills.

I wrote potentially, because most of people will not effectively work on such goals. Not because they don't want to, but because they don't know how to start or what kind of support they can get from organization. That's where I use coaching1 approach to work with people and their goals.

1 by coaching I mean the process described in Section 1 of ICF Code of Ethics


From your question it looks like you have a perceived problem; the velocity of the project is lower than you think it should be, and what you see as the cause; not all of your team members are self motivated.

I would start by testing the assumption that one is the cause of the other by sharing your concerns about velocity with the team and asking them what they think might be causing this.

If it transpires that motivation is indeed playing a part in this then ask your team what motivates them and why it is missing in the work they are doing on this project.

Motivation can be both intrinsic and extrinsic, and these can coexist.

They can probably tell you what gets them out of bed in the morning and keeps them coming in to work for you.

Take your cue from them and work with them together to improve things.

I have found this approach to be beneficial with the teams I have worked with.


One of the subtleties of scrum is that it creates a lot of visibility across the team regarding who is getting what done. If you are not practicing scrum or something similar, you should seriously consider starting it so that the unmotivated people on your staff can become more aware that they aren't pulling their weight.

Talk to these people 1-on-1 at length and find out if they feel disenfranchised from the process somehow. Find out if there is something specific that is causing them to do the minimum. You need to engage with them and remove obstacles if they exist.

Are you sure they understand what is expected of them and how they are under-performing?

If you are already doing these things or if these people are aware that they aren't pulling their weight and they just don't care, then it's time to consider other actions especially if they are affecting the rest of the team.

If you've done these things and you're still not getting results, then you start applying pressure until they change or quit. The good performers will at least appreciate the fact that you're applying pressure.

You don't want the good people suffering and possibly leaving. Then all you will have is a team of low performers and it will be almost impossible to build a decent team from that nucleus.


In a mature Agile team, bring up the issue with the team itself and let them self-organize/problem solve the issue by themselves. You can help them by providing metrics on how their solutions are working and direction on whether further experimentation is needed. But, they will be in the best position to solve the problem, and any solution they come to will already have the team's buy-in and therefore build-in incentives.

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