First Steps with Merit Money At AVL India – Rewards That Actually Motivate

Two years ago Mr. Madhu Mohan, the Head of Software Development of AVL India, an affiliate of AVL List GmbH, asked me if I could suggest him a reward system that actually motivates employees and supports their Agile teams. I suggested the Management 3.0 practice Merit Money and supported them during implementation.

AVL India has about 50 employees working in the software development department. They are organized in 8 agile teams, who develop cutting-edge software products for the modern vehicle development process.

During my last visited in December 2017 I reflected with Mr. Madhu Mohan (Head of Development) and Mr. Sunil Singh (Lead Scrum Master) about the current state of implementation of Merit Money.

Me: What was your initial motivation for introducing Merit Money?

Mr. Mohan: We needed a reward scheme, which could not be tricked. Earlier we faced the problem that employees tried to trick the reward scheme by applying politicial tactics. Also the team should get the main influence on reward distribution. Further it should fit to our team-based approach that we implemented since our introduction of agile practices, three years ago.

Mr. Singh: Team work and motivation are key for us. So we needed a highly transparent and motivating reward scheme, which enforces everyone on a team to support other team members.

SW: How did you implement Merit Money?

Mr Mohan: We decided to pilot Merit Money in 2 of our teams to see how it works. After evaluation we decided the next steps.

Mr. Singh: I was responsible for introducing Merit Money in both pilot teams. We believed that both teams were mature enough to start with this practice. We met with some resistance in the initial phase as people were skeptical about the whole process.

SW: How does Merit Money effect team work and motivation of the team members?

Mr. Mohan: As I see it, each team member strives to earn the respect of other team members by contributing to the team cause.

Mr. Singh: We find that each member of the team is always ready to help other team members. By making the results of the polls public, it becomes a great motivating factor for the team members.

SW: What threads do you see with Merit Money?

Mr. Mohan: There will be some complacency that sets in. Typically I could notice that some members were just doing an average distribution of the virtual money amongst all team members without putting any thought to it. So the Agile Coach has to constantly support the team till they get mature with the practice and as a team.

Mr. Singh: Watch out for suspicious patterns at least in the initial phases and provide a safe environment.

SW: What tips can you give to others who want to introduce Merit Money?

Mr. Mohan: You should do the polling at the end of each (2-week) sprint before people forget the contribution of others. We must pay  attention regards confidentiality, due to the concerns brought up by the team members. It will not be  nice for a team member to know that someone else rated him low. This was the biggest challenge I faced in one of the teams. Today technology and platforms are so advanced that there are multiple options to do a confidential polling. One of the teams has adopted Google forms for this. And it works fine.

Mr. Singh: Create a light and friendly environment during the rating exercise. Too much of explanations (why 9? why 3? etc) will not let the process succeed. So make people feel that it is part of their routine work.

SW: What are your future plans regarding Merit Money?

Mr. Mohan: I would like to roll out the process to all the teams and some weightage of the annual appraisal system should be derived from this.

Mr. Singh: We should be able to use this to make better performing teams from current standards.


Yet Another Sprint Retrospective With “Moving Motivators”

In this blog post I want to share my experience with another great tool from the Management 3.0 workshop, called the “Moving Motivators” game. But first, let’s have a quick look into the science behind intrinsic and extrinsic motivation:


Daniel Pink tells us in this video that science has proven that extrinsic motivators don’t work for knowledge workers, which is a fact that has been ignored by most organizations for the last decades. The “Moving Motivators” game is a great tool to reveal what really motivates us to do our jobs.

Recently I decided to play the “Moving Motivators” game with one of my agile teams in our sprint retrospective.  Even if we shared an open team culture and we knew each other quite well we never talked about our intrinsic motivators inside the team. So I expected to get some new insights into that blind spot.

Preparing the game for our retrospective took me about 2 hours of time. This is what you need to do:

  1. Print the Moving Motivator cards: I used a bit heavier paper (e.g. 100g) than usual office paper and a color laser printer that produces good quality prints, because I think it is essential that the cards look nice and professional.
  2. Laminate the cards: The printed cards look great but laminating them makes them awesome 🙂 It also protects the cards, makes them reusable, gives them a professional look and a nice touch. Your team will love them!
  3. Cut the cards and prepare the card decks for handing them out to your team



During the retrospective we followed the 3 steps through the exercise, which took us about 45 minutes. And, yes, the team loved the nicely crafted cards 🙂

In conclusion the “Moving Motivators” game was a welcome variation to our usual retrospectives that helped us to talk about our motivations for our jobs. Personally it revealed that I have had badly misjudged some of the team member’s in respect to their intrinsic motivators. The “Moving Motivators” game helped me to correct the view on my colleagues and made me start respond more accurately to their actions and behaviour.

If you would like to play the game with your team I can leave you some tips here. The exercise requires a high level of trust and an open culture. It is also crucial to talk to your team before you do the exercise with them – everyone must agree. Take your time to prepare the cards nicely. It will be much more fun! If your team fulfills the prerequisites the exercise is a great opportunity to get to know each other better and bring you one step further as a team.

Better Feedback with a Happiness Door

My work as Agile coach includes regular training lessons with agile teams, product owners and other staff. Usually after a training or workshop I kindly ask the participants for their verbal feedback about the workshop, my moderation, the exercises, etc. A common practice that I just adapted from other trainers with the aim to improve my own training and moderation skills. Unfortunately the results of the verbal feedback rounds were not satisfying for me due to various problems:

  • Giving honest verbal feedback strait in the face seemed to be hard for my participants and therefore it was often omitted
  • Participants seemed to feel a barrier exposing their individual thoughts about the training in front of the group
  • Participants gave pseudo feedback by just repeating other’s feedback or giving hollow feedback
  • Only a few participants gave feedback at all
  • I hardly received constructive improvements (which is most interesting for me)
  • If there was plenty of verbal feedback after the training I often forgot most of it until I had time to reflect on it
  • Participants didn’t know how to express appropriate feedback

As a result I thought about alternative feedback mechanisms. I expected less problems with written feedback, which led to the idea to use a happiness door, a feedback mechanism created by Jurgen Appelo that I already knew from the management 3.0 workshop I attended some months ago.



Could the happiness door address my problems I had with verbal feedback rounds?

Yes. What has changed is that my participants felt safe to express their feedback semi-anonymously on sticky notes, which was not the case with the verbal feedback rounds. As a result I received more valuable feedback on my training lesson. Also everyone was willing to write at least one sticky note and because of less mutual influencing there was more individual feedback on the door. Finally seeing the feedback visually in front of me on the happiness scale was just great, because it gave me an instant feeling about my training performance and also helped me to remember a feeling of the training lesson. After the training I spent another 15 minutes to carefully read, interpret and summarize the feedback, which helped me to reflect. Last but not least due to sticky notes I didn’t miss any feedback, which happened quite often when doing verbal feedback rounds.

The only drawback I identified so far is that the written feedback can be easily misinterpreted and that there is no possibility to ask questions back. And of course you need to ask for a nice handwriting if you want to apply a happiness door.

Anyway, to put it in a nutshell the happiness door turned out to be a good feedback mechanism for me and there will be more happiness doors in my future training lessons for sure.

Meine erste Kudo Box

Eine der Ideen, die ich aus dem Management 3.0 Workshop mitgenommen habe, ist die Kudo Box. Ich habe vor zwei Wochen eine Kudo Box im Team-Büro aufgestellt und bereits erste Erfahrungen damit gesammelt.

In der letzten Sprint Retrospektive habe ich das Team gefragt, ob sie denn eine Kudo Box haben möchten – nach einer kurzen Erklärung lautete die Antwort kurz “JA”.

Ich habe die Box also an einem gut sichtbaren Ort neben dem Eingang aufgestellt, sodass jeder mehrmals pro Tag daran vorbei läuft. Die Kärtchen habe ich selbst ausgedruck und direkt neben die Box gelegt. Zum Selbstläufer wurde das Ganze allerdings anfangs nicht.

My First Kudo Box

Die ersten zwei Tage waren noch alle zurückhaltend mit den Kudos – ich habe dann begonnen die ersten zwei Kudo Karten einzuwerfen,  wodurch die initialen Hemmungen fielen und auch das restliche Team das “Tool” zu verwenden begann. Es folgten täglich weitere Kudos und es schien allen sichtlich Spass zu machen. Zeitweise war sogar ein echte “Kudo-Manie” ausgebrochen 😉

Kudo Card

In der folgenden Sprint Retrospektive habe ich die Kudos dann öffentlich verteilt. Es waren nach zwei Wochen über 20 Kudo Karten in der Box, was meine Erwartungen doch deutlich übertraf.

Wie groß der Impact der Kudo Box auf die “Team-Happiness” im letzten Sprint war läßt sich natürlich nicht eindeutig sagen. Subjektiv konnte ich aber eine sehr gute Stimmung im Team wahrnehmen. Die Ergebnisse der Sprint Retrospektive bestätigten dies auch:


Die Kudo Box ist bei uns nun ein fixer Bestandteil und ich bin überzeugt, dass sie zur Team-Kultur bereits einen positiven Beitrag geleistet hat und noch leisten wird – bei uns war der positive Spirit und der Spass im letzten Sprint auf jeden Fall deutlich spührbar.

Es ist erstaunlich, aber als ich meine Kudo Karte(n) entgegennahm hatte ich tatsächlich dieses Gefühl der inneren Zufriedenheit. Meine Motivation wurde dadurch merklich positiv beeinflusst und ich denke da ging es nicht nur mir so. Ich finde die Kudo Box ist eine genial einfache Idee, die mir jetzt bereits ihre Praxistauglichkeit bewiesen hat.

Trotz aller positiven Effekte möchte ich natürlich kritisch bleiben und den Effekt der Kudo Box noch auf längere Sicht betrachten. Für die weitere Beobachtung finde ich vor allem die folgenden Fragen spannend:

  • Wie ist der Effekt auf das Team, wenn nicht immer jeder Kudos erhält, also manche Personen leer ausgehen?
  • Kann im Team ein Wettbewerb um Kudos entstehen?
  • Kommt es über die Zeit zu einer Kudo Inflation?

Habt ihr schon mehr Erfahrungen gemacht als ich und vielleicht schon Antworten auf die obigen Fragen gefunden?