Is agile about new tools and techniques or more a mindset? Philippe Kruchten asserts “agility is not a technology, science, or product but a culture”. This makes sense to me; innovation comes in waves (object oriented programming, business process engineering, lean production, etc); and while they all have their merits, most fail to deliver the full potential of their benefits because people concentrate on the process rather than the mindset. At the heart of agile is a mindset not a toolset.
I was speaking to Christopher Avery today, author of “Teamwork is an Individual Skill” and he shared some thoughts on personal agility and team motivation. Christopher is great for this since he approaches agility and team work from a psychological side whereas my thoughts are usually based on observation and trial and error.
We were discussing motivation and how to motivate peers who you do not necessarily have positional power over. Bosses may try to create motivation via carrot and stick approaches, but these are weak and short lived. People grow tired of such manipulation and find ways to break the system.
Instead, Christopher talked about “Intrinsic Motivation”, a more powerful motivation that comes from within. People want to be on a winning team, but are not sure how to find or create them. The secret lies in understanding what “winning” means for others and then creating wins around you. In practical terms this means asking people “what is in it for them?” i.e. what is it they would like to learn, do, or gain (beyond a paycheck) from the project and then provide opportunities for these things to happen.
At first this sounded a little odd to me, a bit too touchy-feely. Asking people what they did over the weekend is one thing, but asking them what they want out of a project seems, well, invasive, too personal. However when you think about it, that is backwards, after all the project is something we all have in common. What they did with their spouse over the weekend, now that could be personal!
Telling someone what you really want to get out of a project might seem a little odd too, but fears of doing so indicate a ‘scarcity model’ to information. Why should we worry if people know what we really like to do or gain, chances are they will make opportunities available for us to do them. Helping others get what they want from projects creates an upward spiral of support and co-operation, which when you think about it, is the heart of a winning team.
Chatting to Christopher is always refreshing, he shares so much useful information that I struggle to retain it all. Fortunately for us Chris has recorded a free tele-seminar on Mastering Personal Agility. I heartily recommend it, the people side of projects have the greatest leverage, even small improvements here can yield large benefits; be sure to check it out.