Moving motivators is a management game I discovered on Jurgen Appelo’s website. It is a very simple and fun management game that can be done within a team in any work environment. The goal is to understand what really motivates every member of a team, and how organizational change impacts motivation positively or negatively.

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Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation

Whether you’re setting up a new team or trying to improve the happiness and efficiency of an existing team, understanding what intrinsically motivates each member of the team can be a game changer. But not all motivators are made equal. Extrinsic motivators are external factors that lead to tangible rewards or pressures, such as compensation and bonuses. In contrast, intrinsic motivators are internal rewards and satisfaction, such as being free to organize your work the way you want or being proud of the work you do.

Playing the “Moving Motivators” Game

Jurgen Appelo identified ten main intrinsic desires:











The game is pretty simple. Start by distributing a deck of cards representing each intrinsic desire. During the first part of the game, everyone ranks their cards by putting the ones that matter the most to them on the right and those that matter less on the left. Then, go around the table to discuss each person intrinsic desires.

During the second part of the game, you chose a recent and important change that impacted the team–it can be a change in the company goals, a change in the team organization, or any other significant change.  Then, each member of the team moves each card up or down to reflect how this change impacted her or his motivators. Finally, you go around the table to discuss how and why their most important motivators moved and how the team can help if an important motivator moved down.

I recommend doing this exercise with groups of 6-7 people and expect the exercise to last for about 45 minutes. Thinking about your intrinsic motivators and which ones are the most important to you may take some time and the discussion phase is even more important than the ordering phase.

You can also do this exercise with a new hire or someone you are managing. It will take about 30 minutes and will trigger unexpected, but insightful discussions. Keep in mind that, as a manager, understanding your own motivators is just as important as understanding people you are managing!

Playing Moving Motivators with the Dashlane Team

After several months, we organized this game after creating a new agile team. There are 13 people on this team, so we did it in 2 sessions with half of the team attending each session. We decided to create two teams with the intention of having a good mix of people who have worked at Dashlane for a long time with recent hires, and also people who work in different locations.

The first session lasted 30 minutes, which happened to be too short so we had to cut some discussion time. For our next session, we planned the exercise to last about 45 minutes. It was a great team building moment where we all had the chance to spend quality time together and get to know each other better. It was very interesting to discuss something other than product, code, or quality, but about each other’s internal motivations. For me, doing this game as a manager, I realized that I was preventing someone to organize his work the way he wants, that it was clearly impacting his motivation, and I might never had understood that without the help of the moving motivators.

For me, doing this game as a manager, I realized that I was preventing someone from organizing his work the way he wants and how it was clearly impacting his motivation. I wouldn’t have known that without the help of this Moving Motivators exercise.

How Moving Motivators Benefits Your Team 

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Moving motivators is a great team building tool, which increases honesty, self-awareness, and other team-strengthening attributes. Also, you may be surprised at just how difficult it can be to order your motivators by importance. This exercise helps promote transparency and helps team members understand each other better. It can also helps teams and managers identify high-impact changes that can be done to improve each team member’s motivation.
The game is super simple and easy to organize, and it is definitely a must have in the tool box of any manager or scrum master. If you like it, you can check for more management games here.
Also, if you are interested by digging more on this topic and on modern management practices in general, be sure to check Drive from Dan Pink and Management 3.0 from Jurgen Appelo.