In Dan Pink's bestselling book Drive he describes three core motivations that will keep a person engaged at work: autonomy, mastery and purpose. These aspects of motivation are essential to keeping happy, productive employees. But how do you get employees engaged?

If you work for a business looking to really engage their employees adopting an agile framework such as Scrum for your projects is a great place to start. Scrum is a framework that promotes all three elements that Pink mentions: it gives your employees the freedom of autonomy, allows them the opportunity to continuously improve their mastery, and aligns all members of the team to focus on the purpose of their work.


Merriam Webster defines autonomy as "the quality or state of being self-governing." In the office this means having the freedom to work the way you know is best rather than being told how to do it. This can be stolen through overbearing micromanagement, unrealistic constraints and a myriad of other sources.

In Scrum autonomy is a key part of each sprint. The team together decides how much work to take on and how they plan on getting it done. Teams are jointly responsible for accomplishing the sprint goal and work together how they choose with the focus of getting things done.

Scrum also doesn't dictate the whole process but rather just the foundation. This gives each team the opportunity to decide how they'll handle the gaps that Scrum intentionally leaves behind. The Scrum framework is lean so that there isn't any unnecessary overhead bogging down the team and preventing them from doing what truly is necessary to accomplish their goal and deliver their increment.


The second aspect of motivation that Dan Pink mentions is the opportunity for mastery. Employees want to know that they are continually improving and getting better at their jobs and have the opportunities to continue mastering their craft. If an employee feels that they cannot improve and become masters of their skill they will likely disengage.

Scrum reinforces mastery by having the opportunity for improvement be a key component of its empirical process. In Scrum we are constantly measuring and observing and openly communicating what's being done well and what can improve. As a result this gives the employee many opportunities to fine tune their skills as well as their Scrum process.

Scrum even has an event dedicated to detecting those opportunities: the sprint retrospective! The retrospective gives the team that time necessary to figure out what went well, what could have gone better and then take action on them the next sprint.


The final aspect that Dan Pink mentions is Purpose. In order for a person to want to do something they need to believe in the purpose of what they are doing. How many times have you been excited to do something when you didn't understand the purpose of doing it?

In each sprint as a part of Scrum we define a goal that the team can look to as its guiding purpose for that sprint. The team holds each other accountable to achieve that goal and that helps keep them motivated and rallied to complete the goal. Having that solidly defined focus really helps weed out anything that might be on the fringe and helps solidify that understanding of the overall goal.

Many teams also will form a project charter at the start of their project to further define what the purpose and vision for the project will be. Just like engagement at the company level depends on the individual employee understanding and aligning with the company's mission and vision engagement at the project level depends on the same mutual understanding and alignments.

A Piece Of The Puzzle

Employee engagement is not only crucial to the success of any organization but also crucial to the individual projects and goals that our organizations set along the way. By implementing an agile framework such as Scrum your organization can be a step closer to energizing and retaining employees who not only like what they do but also like who they do it for.

Think about it for your company, how does your process help keep you engaged?

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