Interactions within Agile Teams- The SCARF Model

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“In a world of increasing interconnectedness and rapid change, there is a growing need to improve the way people work together. Understanding the true drivers of human social behavior is becoming ever more urgent in this environment.”- David Rock

We talk about creating self-organizing team and encouraging team dynamics in Agile but what we forget to mention is how it should be done. This is where SCARF model comes in- Social neuroscience explores the biological foundations of the way humans relate to each other and to themselves. From this a theme emerges from social neuroscience- Firstly, that much of our motivation driving social behavior is governed by an overarching organizing principle of minimizing threat and maximizing reward.

Which simply put means we have to ensure our Lizard brain (the part which tells you not to change, take a risk and ensure you continue to live by keeping you safe from trying out unknown things) doesn’t feel threatened at any point.

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The SCARF model involves five domains of human social experience: Status, Certainty, Autonomy, relatedness and Fairness. These 5 domains will either trigger the rewards or the threat thought process.  This also means even during conversations you want to “rewards” trigger to go. This will ensure positive discussion and participation plus engagement.

Certainty and Autonomy out of the five is directly related to you. For example- do you feel empowered that you can make your decision in the current job title? The empowerment  cannot be influenced by anyone else.

The other three Status, Relatedness and Fairness are all influenced by “others”…. Like do you feel you are treated fairly?

So, this is a mix bag of social influence which allows you to feel empowered and positive or otherwise. The dynamics can be created, so if you are a team member or scrum master or manage a team- you need to ensure that these 5 fundamental cornerstones are all in the positive side of things. If by using all of these, we can ensure that a sense of fulfillment, balance and progress within team members can be created- the self-organization will start forming very soon.

Here are 3 ways to build on the improve the team collaboration:·
  • Explain the change (why) - don’t enforce without talking about the big picture.
  • Show why it matters to them(how)- how it can impact them and what usually happens
  • What is expected from a specific role (what)- being articulate about the responsibility of a scrum team/member

If we are successful in ensuring all of these are considered, the team  dynamics and communication will be positive. 

(Pic courtesy: Google images)