Climbing Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in Scrum

February 5, 2016

Anyone who has taken an introductory psychology course is likely familiar with the work of a man named Abraham Maslow. Outside of Egypt, his pyramid is one of the best around.

In 1943, Maslow presented a hierarchy illustrating that different people are at different levels in their needs. People usually start out looking to meet physiological needs and then progressively move up the hierarchy. The top of the hierarchy, known as self-actualization, represents the point at which someone realizes his or her full potential. Realizing one’s full potential carries tremendous benefits and also serves one well in the world of Scrum.

To be successful, a Scrum Team needs both core and non-core team members who have reached either the esteem or self-actualization level. The concept of self-organizing teams, which is a key principle in Scrum, requires team members to be self-motivated and participate and contribute fully toward meeting the project goals.

As a leader, the Scrum Master needs to understand where each person on the team is relative to the pyramid. This understanding will help to determine the best approach in motivating each individual, according to A Guide to the Scrum Body of Knowledge (SBOK™ Guide).

Additionally, everyone fluctuates up and down the levels in the needs hierarchy throughout life due to their own motivation and efforts to move up the hierarchy or, sometimes, due to factors beyond their control that may push them down. The Scrum Master’s goal is to work with individuals on the team to build their skills and knowledge and help them move up the needs hierarchy. This support results in a team that consists of individuals who are motivated and strong contributors to the project and the organization as a whole.

As a member of a Scrum Team, if your output is not as optimal as you’d like it to be, look to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and climb that pyramid.

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