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Agile Coaches' Corner shares practical concepts in an approachable way. It is for agile practitioners and business leaders seeking expert advice on improving the way they work to achieve their desired outcomes. If you have a topic you'd like discussed, email it to, or tweet it with #agilethoughtpodcast.

Nov 22, 2019

Recently, Dan received an email from a listener that posed an interesting question. In short, they said, “We’re doing alright every sprint and the business is doing alright too — we’re not really facing any competition. So, when the team asks, ‘Why should we continually improve?’ how can I help them through that scenario?” This is a great question! Though this team is stable, have been working together for a long time, and are doing well — they’ve reached a plateau.


When you dominate your market and you feel there is no competition there can end up being a serious lack of continuous improvement (especially if the barrier to entry is really high!) And it’s not totally unexpected that teams sometimes can get a little bit complacent — but it’s the Scrum Master’s job to challenge that. So, in today’s episode, Dan, and his collaborator, Sam Falco, will be answering this question and addressing how you, as the Scrum Master, can help remotivate your team to amplify what’s going well, shake things up, and make sure they’re all doing more of what they love!


Key Takeaways

Why should you continually improve?

In the case of competition (people may find an alternative to your company!)

Because there is always something you can look to improve (even if things are going well you can always amplify that)

How can you get your team to be interested in continuous improvement? What’s important to note as a Scrum Master or team leader?

Watch out for change fatigue (sometimes it’s good to simply celebrate stability)

Ask: “What could we try differently?” even if everything is going well (amplify what’s already going well!)

Hold timeline retrospectives (i.e. with the team, plot the events that happened over a period of time and list them from most positive to least to see what people are feeling good or negative about)

By looking back further than a sprint, you can do an exercise called a journey map for the last quarter (or as far back as a year) to look for trends

Find the things that are going to be good for your team (i.e. a compelling interest beyond just the financials of the company)

If some members of the team are bored with the work they’re doing, assign a new project or have them learn a new area of the business

Work with the Product Owner on the question of: “What could we do to delight customers? What are they asking for?” using the Kano model

Work with the Product Owner and coach them on the product road map/how to understand customer needs and creating more inspired product backlog items to fuel the motivation for continual improvement

Look for ways to tap into your team’s intrinsic motivation (if you have a long-standing team it may be important to find out what motivates each individual member of the team [which could be autonomy, mastery, or purpose, according to Daniel H. Pink])

Remember that you are looking for the intrinsic motivators rather than the extrinsic motivators (which are things like time off or financial rewards)

Try flipping the script; do your retrospective around: ‘What would destroy as us a team,’ ‘How can we mess up,’ and ‘What would make the next sprint a complete disaster?’

Identify somewhere that the team can go and lead the way by holding the vision and finding areas of improvement (i.e. lead more than serve)

Be sure to keep in mind that change and improvement can take a long time

Find a representative within the team of developers who is interested in continuous improvement to facilitate change, model the behavior, and lead through attraction


Mentioned in this Episode:

Kano Model

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, by Daniel H. Pink

Moving Motivators Cards

Agile Coaches’ Corner Ep. 43: “The Importance of the Product Owner Role in Scrum with Sam Falco”

Agile 2019 Conference

Agile + DevOps East Conference

“The Experience Trap” – Harvard Business Review


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