Sunday, December 09, 2018

If you want motivated people in your organization, they have to be able to screw up the business

... at least temporarily.

There has been a lot written about the possible ways to get people to buy into the overarching goals, visions and target of their organization. More and more I get the impression that one important part is missing.

Of course it is important that everyone “knows the whole picture” and that ”vision is made clear to everyone” and so on.

The important thing that’s missing –at least in my opinion– is this litte thing called “making a difference.” People in an organization have to have the feeling that their actions actually do make a difference. When the effective difference of ones work being done well or not at all is effectively zilch –e.g. because after completing the work it still takes half a year before it has any effect on the outside world due to company procedure– the person delivering the work probably doesn’t experience much effectiveness.
In the long term this can lead to low self-efficacy which in turn increases the probability of disconnecting from daily life. In more pronounced cases this even can be a way to burnout and depression or inner resignation.

One of the biggest differences between environments where motivation is high and those where it isn't, in my experience, is how much effect peoples’ actions have on the outside world.

The Manifesto for Agile Software Development very clearly states

Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.

While the Essential Kanban Condensed says

Encourage acts of leadership at every level


Manage the work; let people self-organize around it.

To get this in one of those “agile transformations” I suggest that it is a key element to make sure that each individual contributors contribution actually does contribute. In a tangible way. After all: if my actions don’t have any real effect, why should I perform them at all?

On a related note: I think “agile transformations” is a misnomer. What you actually want to do is to make your business more flexible and move it away from the Tayloristic approach which doesn't fit the reality of today’s knowledge work and towards modern models like networked organizations, the leader-leader model or similar concepts.

till next time
  Michael Mahlberg

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