Scrum Rewards

It has been suggested by some that there is no place for individual recognition on Scrum teams. The thinking is that because the focus is on the team effort any individual reward mechanism could potentially have a negative impact on unity. As a result promoting behavioral patterns where individuals might attempt to create situations and opportunities to gain personal recognition.

To me, this attitude shows little faith in the individual team members appreciation for the values and benefits of being a scrum team. It is also somewhat reminiscent of the us versus them mentality of more traditional project management strategies, and while agile methods typically attempt to break away from seeing people as “resources”. This attitude almost depersonalizes the team to being seen as a single “resource” rather than a collective of skilled professionals working together to achieve a shared objective. The fact is that individual recognition is a valuable and worthwhile exercise, people appreciate recognition for their individual efforts. Yes, people are members of a team, but conversely teams are still made up of individual people.

Consider a military unit or sports team. Maybe even a Rugby team from which some inspiration for Scrum was drawn. These teams know their common goal, they understand the more they collaborate and communicate the better their chance of achieving the objective. Does that mean soldiers should not be awarded medals, sports teams should not recognize MVP’s or Rugby teams a “man of the match”? Of course not. Nor is it hypothesized that these individuals would jeopardize their teams chances of success in order to gain some personal glory should the opportunity arise.

The expectation is that team players put the team goal first and themselves second. That is how they are treated and as a result that is how they act. Once a military unit or a sports team is in play they operate as a single focused group. No one really draws satisfaction from a personal win if the collective does not succeed.

That is why when the dust settles and the retrospective, post game analysis or operational debrief happens. Opportunities are sought to reward the members who played an exceptional part in furthering the team effort. And let us not forget, that person is not always the scorer of the winning goal. Effectively identifying and rewarding individual excellence in a team setting accounts for the collaborative environment in which they operate.

For example, it is often the person who sets up the plays to allow a teammate to score the point that gets the recognition. It’s not the soldier that carried out the objective, but the one who risked their life for the sake of a comrade that gets the medal.

And so on the Scrum team, individual recognition focuses on the team member who volunteered to pair with a struggling colleague. Or who spent their free time automating a process that was a pain point for the rest of the team. Again, the recognition is for the individual whose behaviors furthered the team effort.

As always, I believe its important to keep it fun and not too serious. It should be something that makes people smile. The idea is not about a $5000 bonus, its about a public kudos! The recognition should reflect this, perhaps consider a Mr.Spock award. Reinforcing the Vulcan ideal that

“the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one or the few”

could be a great way to promote the values of collaborative work and a lighthearted way recognize the efforts of those who go above and beyond for the good of their team. Or in a similar vein consider a “Hulk of the Month”, who has no personal agenda, his “smashing” behavior is always driven by the desire to help others or position his fellow avengers for success.

But before we get too ridiculous, One last added bonus of recognition based on team boosting behaviors. In the event of a praise driven Lone Ranger type personality joining the team, be they a new hire or simply a developer new to scrum. They will actually become motivated to embrace the team spirit in order to obtain that individual recognition that they seek. This creates a situation where they effectively retrain themselves to work in a more collaborative style.

And that’s a win for everyone involved.

Originally published at