Three Elements That Sustain Motivation

We all have extrinsic motivators in the work place.  I know that if I want to get paid and keep my job I need to do the tasks that are assigned to me.  There is a big difference though, between just getting something done and being intrinsically motivated to perform that task to the best of my ability or to work toward achieving mastery.  According to Daisy Yuhas in the article, “Three Critical Elements Sustain Motivation”  there are three factors that have been found to impact motivation:

1) Autonomy

The perception of autonomy leads to feelings of control.  When we feel that we have a choice about the tasks we do we are more likely to be persistent and expend more energy in pursuit of our goal.  In a project situation, the way in which team members are engaged in the process can have a big impact on feelings of control.  For instance, during the SCRUM process if team members have chosen post-its off of the task board and put their names on them, they will feel much more autonomous than if a project schedule was handed to them with their name by a task.  Even if they were the only one on the team who could have performed the task, it still feels like a choice if they call it out and claim it as their own.

2) Value

When we value the task or goal related to the activity we are more likely to pursue it.  I know that I feel more engaged in tasks that I feel really add benefit to a project or to tasks that help me to grow in mastery. From a value perspective this is because I believe in being a contributing member to the betterment of society and I also believe strongly in continually pursuing growth, expertise and mastery.  If tasks assigned to employees can be framed in a way that touches on that employee’s values and they can see the benefit of it, they are more likely to be motivated to do it.

3) Competence

The more ability we have in doing a task the more we tend to enjoy it.  This is especially true if we believe that hard work, rather than talent,  leads to mastery and excellence.  When I am first learning a new skill, such as learning a new instrument, I am eager to practice because I’m buoyed by the excitement of trying something new.  After a few sessions however I find that making myself sit down to practice is difficult because the initial excitement has worn off and my competence level is low.  Constantly making mistakes is frustrating.  If I persist in practicing however my competence grows and I garner enjoyment from playing that instrument.  This experience illustrates the idea that increased competence when performing an activity increases enjoyment, which in turn increases motivation.  On a team, a manager may be able to increase a team members motivation by helping them to gain more competence though increased training and mentor-ship or by assigning them tasks where they have a high level of competency.

I hope you find these suggestions helpful.  What factors do you find help you maintain motivation on your team?  Please leave me a comment and let me know.

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Project Risk Management

On any project there are risks.  In many organizations project risk planning is completely overlooked.  Project risk is defined by the PMI as “an uncertain event or condition that, if it occurs, has a positive or negative effect on a project’s objectives.”  Note that risk is not just about negative event planning, but is also about planning for positive risks that may come up as opportunities.

A risk planning process should have three key stages:

  1. Identify the risks 
  2. Analyze the risks
  3. Develop a response plan for the top risks

The process of identifying risk is really about getting everyone on the project together and getting their ideas on what could go right or wrong on the project.  This can be done using common brainstorming methods or more advanced methods such as the Delphi technique.  It is important during this process to try and be open to any suggestions that may be made, no matter how ridiculous they may seem at the moment.  Once a list of risks has been created from this process it is important to try to analyze them to come up with risk score by deciding on a probability and rating the impact, and then multiplying them.  Once each risk has a risk rating, you can focus on the top risks and come up with a response plan.  For negative risks you can try and transfer the risk to another party, you can take actions to try and avoid the risk altogether, or you can come up with contingency plans to deal with the risk if it occurs.  With positive risks you can put plans in place to try and make sure that it occurs.  This is known as risk exploitation.

This information can be organized in the form of a risk register.  The risk register usually have the following information:

  1. An identification number assigned to each risk event identified
  2. The risk rank that was determined from the risk score (probability #10 * impact #11)
  3. A short name to identify the risk
  4. A longer description of the risk
  5. A risk category such as technology or procurement
  6. The potential root cause of the risk
  7. The triggers, or indicators, for each risk (These are events that signal that a risk event is occurring or about to occur)
  8. The potential response to the risk
  9. The risk owner, or the person who will take responsibility monitoring and dealing with the risk
  10. The probability that the risk will occur
  11. The impact to the project if the risk occurs
  12. The status of the risk, i.e. did it happen or was it avoided?

Outside of the benefits avoiding risks altogether using this method, managers, customers and team members will have more confidence in the likelihood of a successful project outcome if they can see that a good risk management plan is in place.

This video by Andy Kaufman, PMP is a great, brief introduction to risk management on projects:

Getting Your Mind Around Your Project – The WBS

In a project of any size the sheer number of things that need to be done can be overwhelming.  One tool that a project manager can use to get their mind around their project is to create a work breakdown structure (WBS) and the corresponding WBS dictionary.  A WBS is a deliverable-oriented grouping of the work involved in a project that defines the total scope of the project.  The dictionary is a document that describes in detail the information needed for anyone to understand what each WBS item is.

There are many methods for going about the creation of a work breakdown structure including: the analogy approach, mind mapping, top down, bottom-up or just using the guidelines established by your company.

Regardless of the approach, the WBS should be created in conjunction with the team members who will be working with you to produce the project deliverables.  This may be as simple as a meeting where everyone gets a stack of post-its and contributes their knowledge of how the work gets done by writing down their tasks and sticking them to the white board.  This exercise also helps give the entire team an understanding the project purpose and scope while at the same time getting their commitment and buy-in for the work that needs to be done.

Check out this short video by Rita Mulcahy, PMP, as she addresses the concept of the WBS:

Thoughts on Motivation

I am taking a Summer class on leadership that has a focus on organizational behavior.  It is an interesting class so far, but then I tend to like psychology and organizational behavior is really the study of psychology of people in the work place.  As part of the course we have been asked to do a group project and our group has to teach an hour and a half on motivation.

This has me thinking about what motivates me in the work I do.  I think that money is a long term motivator simply because if I didn’t make money at what I do I would be forced to do something else in order to make the bills.  As an incentive though, most research suggests that short term cash rewards, such as bonuses,  actually result in worse performance for work that requires thought.  This would suggest that since I do knowledge work my manager would need to focus on other areas of my work experience than money, although if they want to keep me around I do expect to make a competitive wage and some wage progress over the course of my career.  Money…not interesting, but a necessity to move myself up on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs past the basics.

What I think motivates me is the following:

1.  A growth opportunity that stretches me but does not sabotage me, and that helps me progress in an area that I’m interested in.

2.  An environment that offers support and mentor-ship, if I need it, but otherwise gives me the freedom to work in a way that works for me and gives me some room to be creative and self-reliant.

3.  Honest and timely feedback on my work that helps me to hone my performance.  I want to hear if the project I worked so hard on was useful to others.  It is a major motivator for me to know or anticipate that the work I’ve done has added value.

I think that I have this vision in my head of who I am becoming, and I work best towards goals that help me work toward actualizing this vision.  Self reliance is important to me because I need to feel that I am creating this person and developing competencies.  If someone attempts to micromanage my efforts I start to feel like a robot accepting instructions and that kills my motivation quickly.

Outside of this it is really more about avoiding de-motivators such as an unstable workplace or management that seems anxious and unpredictable in their goals and actions.  High uncertainty in a workplace causes me stress and makes me wonder if it is worth forging ahead on initiatives as everything could change and all my efforts subsequently be rendered fruitless.

Being the self centered person I am I tend to think that what motivates me, also motivates others, but everyone is different.  What motivates you?