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Personal Investment = Care and Concern

September 3, 2009

key_to_success How do you get your team members to really care about the work they’re doing?  How do you ensure that they are concerned about the quality of what they are producing or working on?  How do you make sure they’re productive?  How do you make sure they’re happy?

The answer, as you’ve probably guessed already from the title, is to ensure that they are personally invested.  Great, another “how do i”…

We noticed after a period of time, with the help of some valuable feedback, that our development teams were starting to feel disengaged from the work they were doing.  They always cared to some degree about what they were doing, but were missing that added investment that caused them to be really concerned about the finished product (or feel that they had control over how it looked/worked), and the delivery commitments they had set.  Obviously this is an issue that managers will need to deal with throughout their careers, as it’s their job to ensure that their teams deliver quality products/services.

Possible solutions were thrown around and discussed.  One that came early was to have each team present the work that they had accomplished to their stake holders along with all of the other teams on weekly intervals, no matter how impressive or unimpressive their accomplishments for the week happened to be.  The thought here was that teams would not want to be embarrassed with a poor showing compared to the other teams at the end of each week.

After examining this solution, we decided to throw it out.  The problem is that the idea is from the school of negative reinforcement.  Negative reinforcement doesn’t win you any respect, what it does do is lead to the all too true office space quote “Bob, that will only make someone work just hard enough not to get fired”.  Not exactly the outcome we were looking to achieve here ;)

So back to the drawing board, how do you get your teams to feel engaged and motivated?  We came up with a few guidelines that are required.

  • The team needs to knows what the root problem to be solved is, and understand why it needs to be solved, as well as an idea of what kind of solution is sought (short/medium/long term).
  • The team absolutely must be the ones to come up with the solution and implementation details.  This is the lynch pin of their personal investment in the project.  This may require coming up with multiple solutions and presenting them to the product owner to choose from.
  • The team needs to understand the business reasons behind the motivation to solve the problem so that they can buy in to the value provided by solving it, and be confident that their solution will solve it appropriately.
  • The team needs to trust the product owner, and the product owner needs to trust the team.

With these things in place, the team should have a personal stake in the solution they are implementing.  More than likely the solution will succeed, and the team will be proud that they solved a problem for the business.  The reason it’s more likely to succeed under these circumstances is because the team has a very strong vested interest in seeing it succeed, it was their idea!  They also have more interest in seeing it delivered on time, it was their idea!  Nobody likes to see their own idea’s fail, especially when they know the value that will be gained if it works.

If you have advice on more ways to increase your teams engagement/investment in their work, please share!

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