During my years as project manager, scrum master and agile coach, I’ve had the opportunity to work with many different people and teams, delivering projects and business software.
Whether you’re working on a traditional project team or an agile team and no matter how clear the objective or how perfect the combination of skilled people, there is a clear common denominator for success: motivation. Motivation is the key to all action!
Factors that motivate people are varied and complex. A multitude of people and theories attempt to explain this in detail – which is what I’ll do here as well, based on my own reflections from my professional life.
My overall impression is that people whose work helps develop their skills are the most motivated. When project members also have the opportunity to learn new techniques, methods or languages, learning becomes an even stronger motivating factor. I believe that personal development and our drive to do or be better is part of being human and the strongest driver we possess.
Not long ago, a team in my department was given the assignment to develop an integrated planning prototype within a week’s time – a challenge that felt difficult if not impossible to carry out. At the same time, the team felt psyched and took up the challenge. In order to focus wholly on the job ahead, they shut themselves up in a room.
The result? A great and promising prototype, which, with just one additional week of work, was released as part of the service. In this case, it was the challenge itself that motivated the team. Another factor was that everyone – not just the team – recognised that the success of this assignment would not only represent a crucial contribution but the last piece in an important concept of the company’s future offer.
Since then, my department has introduced hack days – days during which developers can create or work on anything in any way they believe will contribute to the company’s success. The following day, results are shared and a winner is crowned.
The motivating factor here is the championship per se – to be the winner – but also the fact that the team was given free reign; the privilege to do whatever you think is important.
It’s incredible to see how many awesome ideas and prototypes the team comes up with in just one day, how much fun the developers have and how the pace of innovation is accelerated in the entire department!
I believe that knowledge of what drives people to succeed is invaluable for companies and their leaders. In fact, companies today seem to increasingly recognise the importance of motivation and how it’s linked to success.
As a leader and coach, I believe that the main task is to create conditions that motivate individuals and teams, which then becomes the driving force for success in their work.