Disciplined Agile

Motivating Individuals

People are intrinsically motivated by three things: mastery, autonomy, and purpose.


During the past few years, the work of Dan Pink has been broadly adopted as a foundation for success when building agile teams. His work shows that intrinsic motivators are far more important than extrinsic motivators (e.g., money, nice offices). These intrinsic motivators are:

  1. Mastery. People want to get better and develop their skills so they can become more effective at what they do. In Disciplined Agile® (DA), this is supported by a learning-oriented approach where teams regularly reflect on how well they are working, explore new ideas and technologies through spikes, are responsible for sharing their skills and knowledge with others, and purposely explore both the problem and solution domains in an evolutionary manner. The DA tool kit also promotes the strategy of people being T-skilled, generalizing specialists  who have one or more specialties in addition to a broad knowledge of software engineering and the domain they are working in.
  2. Autonomy. People want to be able to direct their own lives. In agile, this is best represented by the principles that teams should be self-organizing and own their own process. DA enhances these principles by pointing out that self-organization must be tempered with appropriate governance, and that to effectively own their own process teams need lightweight guidance (via DA’s goal-driven approach).
  3. Purpose. People are motivated by goals that are bigger than themselves. On DA teams, the first milestone is to arrive at a common vision with stakeholders, a vision that guides the team throughout Construction (a concept that is captured in the Fulfill the Team Mission process goal). Furthermore, DA’s enterprise awareness philosophy promotes the idea that teams should look beyond themselves to understand—and then do—what is best for the organization they work for, instead of what is convenient for them.

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