How To Inspire Your Agile Team

group of black people working in an office

Agile teams, like many other teams, are susceptible to burnout and diminishing enthusiasm. When this happens, productivity will dip and project deadlines will almost certainly be missed.

This will likely result in unhappy customers and damage to the reputation of the company. To keep people inspired, provide financial incentives for certain milestones.

For example, you could give out bonuses or gift cards if a certain deliverable is completed before its deadline. The cash alone will inspire people to push harder, especially given the rising costs of basic goods due to inflation.

Non-financial ways to inspire your agile team

If you don't quite have the budget for bonuses, there are other, albeit less effective, ways to inspire your agile team. Those who engage in agile work or ascribe to the agile philosophy are probably very interested in continuing education.

Paying for the team's training for the PMP (Project Management Professional) or CSM (Certified Scrum Master) exams is a relatively inexpensive way to incentivize their hard work. Career advancement and educational opportunities are big motivators for the modern professional.

Team inspiration mistakes to avoid

The biggest mistake I see companies make when it comes to inspiring employees is rewarding good work with more work. It's an odd, ineffective practice that needs to stop.

Contrary to corporate executive beliefs, people don't live to work. Hell, most people don't even like to work.

Find out what inspires people and be humble enough to realize that the same things that inspire you do not inspire others. So, if the team meets a deadline, don't "reward" their achievement with additional tasks.

Instead, do the opposite, and offer additional PTO, or some extended lunch breaks. If you decide to buy them a meal, try not to suggest they all meet up after work to enjoy it together.

To some people (myself included), an after-work gathering is a cruel punishment, not a treat.

Some more ideas for motivating and inspiring the team

To get your creative juices flowing, here are some additional ways to inspire an agile team

  • Stop requiring cameras to be on - This lets people know that you trust them and removes some of the pressure many ladies feel around getting "camera" ready.
  • Encourage risk-taking - Many people fear taking risks because the consequences are so severe. Creativity is dampened when people are not allowed to make mistakes.
  • Don't encourage people to take their work home - The only people that should worry about a company 24/7 are the people that own the company. It't cruel to encourage people to behave like they own the place when they can be fired in an instant.
  • Promote time off - Not taking time off isn't honorable or admirable, it's just stupid. People need time away from work in order to excel at work.
  • Shorten the work week - A four day work week can be even more productive than a five-day week if you focus on small, incremental, high-quality deliverables.
  • Allow diversification of tasks - Work can get boring fast if you are doing the same, repetitive tasks each day. Allow people to work on tasks that suit their interests to keep them engaged and productive. For example, allow the backend engineer to do some work on UX/UI for a bit.
  • Be sure not to over allocate - If you have a large team, it can be easy for the workload to be unbalanced. As such, having a project management tool that displays each task the team has is vital to the team's overall success.
  • Recognize that public recognition is not always a good strategy - Public recognition is not a reward for some people. Many would much rather receive cash or a gift than a round of applause from people they barely know or like. In general, try to avoid a one-size-fits-all approach to management. Many so-called experts are preaching outdated ineffective methods that were probably only relevant in the 50s.
  • Reduce meeting times - Most meetings don't need to be an hour or even thirty minutes long. In fact, with the proper meeting agenda you can condense most meetings down to 15 or 20 minutes. If you need the team to be focused on getting tasks done, be sure their calendars are not cluttered with unnecessary meetings.
  • Don't bother people after hours - Don&apso;t bother people after hours or on their days off. Unless you are a heart surgeon or providing some type of life-sustaining/saving service, there is no real emergency that anyone needs to attend to. Yes...there is no such thing as an emergency Excel report...
  • Do their job for a day or so - If you have the skill set to do, perform the tasks they typically do for a while. This will give you great insight into any roadblocks they are experiencing and help you empathize with them.

In addition to these methods, another great way to keep the team engaged and inspired is to have fun. Here are some enjoyable and unique activities. Be sure that all of these are optional and that you don't force anyone to participate as that defeats the purpose and is one of main disadvantages of work events.

  • Host a Fortnite tournament
  • Offer extra PTO
  • Provide gift cards to popular stores in the area
  • Play a tech-related trivia game
  • Host a virtual painting session
  • Do an escape room
  • Have a paintball match
  • Go on a digital scavenger hunt
  • Play scrabble
  • Company themed Jeoprady
  • Field day
  • Company trip to the movies during work hours

A nice financial reward system coupled with an environment that encourages risk-taking and free-thinking creates a very engaged and happy team. Mistakes will happen but you should ensure that they are not punished so severely that they keep anyone from trying anything different.

Be kind, thoughtful, and respectful. Always keep in mind that people's personal lives will always be more important to them than their work lives and you will have no problem keeping your agile team inspired for years to come.

Matt Irving is the CEO of Super Easy Tech, LLC.
Matt is the CEO of Super Easy Tech and creator of Super Easy CRM. He is a passionate software engineer, tech blogger, and gamer. Feel free to connect on any of the platforms listed below.

Posted by: Matt Irving on 01/15/2022