05.10 20120

Let’s Get Hitched

To motivate is to get forward movement… it is a progressive idea.  The changing and challenging 21st Century world needs a 21st century model for motivating an ever-evolving group of people.   Early survival depended upon an agrarian society that utilized the labor of horses and those driving the horses, using the carrot to motivate and the stick to punish when necessary.  In today’s world, where labor is less mechanical and more creative, new motivations emerge.  We are no longer driven simply by the desire to make money or threat of the loss of money.

In Daniel Pink’s book, Drive, he discusses a new drive that has emerged as a primary motivator of the workforce, and that drive is engagement.  People work because they want to be a part of a community, and they want to engage with the world.  In the traditional model, you reward the behavior of which you want more, and you punish the behavior of which you want less.  For example, bonuses typically are effective for tasks requiring mechanical skills; however, with more creative tasks, bonuses may lead to worse performance.  Punishment offers a similar experience.  In the traditional model, if you punish a behavior, you will get less of it; however, in an environment requiring cognitive thinking, punishment may led to more of the activity you wish to eliminate.  Pink offers the example of fining parents for late pick-up of children from nursery school.  After a school instituted a fine for such behavior, parent late arrivals soared.  Parents, who previously had picked up their children on time out of respect for the workers’ time, then felt no obligation to the workers, and picked up late when convenient because it was a paid service.

Pink’s new drive of engagement has three primary motivators:  autonomy, mastery and purpose.  In the old model, management created compliance, but in a new model, engagement requires self-direction.  When people are allowed the freedom to self-direct, they can come up with innovative ideas and solutions.  Some companies have successfully utilized 20% time, allowing employees to use 20% of their time on self-directed projects.  Pink’s second motivator is mastery.  The open source movement illustrates how highly skilled, highly paid, employed people will use their spare time to work on free projects for the challenge of mastery and the desire to make an overall contribution.  One of the top motivations of workers is to make progress, even just doing something a little better.  Pink’s last primary new motivator is purpose.  The purpose of employment must be more than just the “profit motive.”  Workers must be inspired by the “purpose motive.”  Steve Jobs “purpose motive” was “to put a ding in the universe.”  Today’s workers require a noble mission or purpose to drive their creative work efforts.

Organizations have begun to realize that differing motivations require differing management practices.  Agile practices use self-directed teams to complete the work.  Team members are challenged to lead the charge in developing mastery of their work by utilizing the skills of the group to accomplish goals.  While the product owner manages the idea of return on investment, the teams are given purposeful user stories to drive the development of creative solutions, verses focusing on budget driven activities.  In order to keep business running, “the profit motive” must be securely hitched to the “purpose motive.”  If the two become unhitched, bad things can happen to an organization.  For a purposeful life, we must stay married to the idea that our life has meaning and the work we do matters.

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