March and Motivation with Agile

#MyAgileYear is well underway, and I’m still a big flabbergasted it’s the end of March. Yes, I have become one of those people who shake my head in disbelief saying “Where has the time gone?”. Perhaps it’s going fast as every month so far has had a focus. And by focusing on a topic and working out how to work it into my life more the time just disappears… Maybe… January was all about simplicity. February was about face to face communication. And March has been about motivation. I have been reading a lot about motivation of late, and find the subject fascinating. What motivates people? What gives them energy? I have found myself re-reading the chapter in Management 3.0 by Jurgen Apello to come up with new ways of energising the teams I am working with.

The Agile principle about motivation says:

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

And I’m sure you will agree that teams that are excited about the work they are doing, and have the motivation to work together consistently achieve better results. And it’s not about the work. I have seen teams working on the driest of topics and be genuinely inspired by their work. Conversely I have seen teams working on truly interesting projects who have been a bit ‘meh’.

The Secret Sauce of Motivation

The best summary of motivation I have found is Dan Pink’s Ted Talk: The Puzzle of Motivation. He talks about autonomy, mastery and purpose. He points out that social science has all the data we could possibly need to help us motivate people, yet businesses do the opposite. Why?

I am obviously excited about this topic, as I wrote about it last year, and one of the things I focused on was environment. As employers, businesses and project teams are we providing environments for people to thrive? I think the answer is yes. There are some amazing work environments that are doing great things to motivate people. I think the reason why we are not making the most of the science, research and knowledge is we re not adapting, testing and learning. I truly believe that many organisations are trying very hard to implement the learnings from science, just not taking on feedback and seeking to improve.

Motivation and Trust

One of the key behavioural principles I subscribe to is:

There is no failure, only feedback

When we create an environment where people are motivated and inspired, we not only have to trust them to get the job done, but trust them when they provide feedback. And THEN we need to be prepared to adapt in response. Having an experimental mindset is key here, as well as being okay to not be as successful with every experiment. Teams are motivated when they see their leadership making an genuine effort to make the workplace great. And they can smell when you’re faking a mile away.

For me the big learning has been to make an effort, but be okay to pivot and try something new. What could you experiment with to motivate your teams?




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About Emma Sharrock

Emma is the author of The Agile Project Manager: Thrive in Change with Agile. An experienced change leader, Emma is passionate about working with people to facilitate successful change. Emma utilises Agile techniques, coupled with the Agile mindset to coach leaders and teams to achieve their business goals.